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Family dog dies after cougar attack in Lebanon

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Molly was a beloved family pet. She was put down a week after a cougar attacked her. 

A dog attacked by a cougar last week in Lebanon died on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

The dog’s human owners — husband and wife Kamron and Rachael Miller and children Sophia and Eli — started a GoFundMe post and plan to donate its proceeds to the veterinary hospital that helped Molly the dog.

Molly was staying with Rachael Miller's parents in rural Lebanon when the attack happened. The mixed breed (Pomeranian, dachshund, Pyrenees and spaniel) was playing outside on Wednesday, Nov. 10 when a cougar appeared in the yard, snatching the dog by her head and carrying her up a tree, Kamron Miller said.

Alerted by another dog he was watching, Rachael’s father, Steve Weintraub, heard Molly shrieking. He scoured the ground looking for Molly first, then realized she was in the tree with the cougar. Weintraub went running for his .22 rifle to rescue the pup from the wild animal, Kamron Miller said.

“They’ve seen a few cougars out there with some of their neighbors over the last year or two,” Kamron Miller said, “But never that close to their house or in the middle of the day like that.”

Weintraub fired two shots and both Molly and the cougar dropped out of the tree, he said. The cougar, which Kamron Miller said was likely hit at least once in the hindquarters, took off running after a third shot was fired.

In what should be a cautionary tale to those in the area, the predatory animal had gotten dangerously close to the home, within 30 to 40 feet, before it attacked.

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Molly suffered jaw injuries and lost an eye to the cougar attack. 

Molly fights for her life

Molly was taken to Willamette Veterinary Clinic in Corvallis and then Portland’s DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital. Veterinarians worked to save Molly, but she suffered injuries to the upper left jaw, a portion of which was removed, and she lost an eye, Kamron Miller said. She was also put on a feeding tube.

After taking a turn for the worse, Molly returned to DoveLewis for additional surgery and to pinpoint the antibiotics for a serious infection she was fighting, Kamron Miller said. But Molly couldn’t overcome, and she was put down a week after she was attacked.

“We decided that what is best for Molly is to put her to sleep instead of months of treatment and surgery, hoping they work,” he said. “Saying goodbye is harder than I could have imagined.”

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Molly recovers after surgery to repair wounds suffered in the cougar attack.

The Millers grew up in Lebanon and now reside in Ridgefield, Washington. Both of their extended families are still in Lebanon. Molly, who was a rescue dog from SafeHaven in Albany, was a gift to their daughter, Sophia, six years ago. Kamron Miller said Molly had a uniquely sweet personality, garnering affection wherever she went.

“We fell in love with her from the beginning,” he said. “She was deeply loved.”

Aftermath of the attack

A Wildlife Services agent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture was dispatched to track down the offending cougar along with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, finding it dead not far from where the attack happened, according to Michelle Dennehy, ODFW spokeswoman.

It’s legal in Oregon for landowners to shoot cougars causing damage or public safety issues, including pet attacks, without a permit, so long as ODFW is notified, as it was in this case. The agency took the carcass, Dennehy said, and sampled it for age and other information, as it does for every cougar killed in Oregon. The details go into population sampling records.

“The cougar was a yearling male weighing 75 pounds and possibly in the process of dispersing from its mother,” Dennehy said in an email. “We do tend to see more conflict with this age group, especially with males, because cougars, especially males, are very territorial and guard their territory against other males, which can sometimes push young cougars into less ideal habitat like around homes.”

Living around cougars

Dispersing females, on the other hand, often establish a home range adjacent to their mother, Dennehy said. But male cougars are very territorial, and if there isn’t unoccupied habitat then young dispersing cougars can be forced into less ideal habitat, such as areas around homes.

Dennehy said cougar conflicts have increased in the past few decades but have been relatively stable in the mid-valley as of late, adding that 2021 is averaging numbers the agency has seen. Attacks on pets and livestock do happen, but no humans have been attacked locally in recent history.

If you happen to spot a cougar, it’s not necessarily cause for alarm. Dennehy said if there are repeated sightings in daylight, attacks or aggressive behavior, call the local ODFW officer or 911 if there is an immediate threat to safety. More information about living around cougars is available on the ODFW website.

“There are many steps people can take to reduce the risks of conflict with cougars including feeding pets indoors, keeping pets indoors at night and dawn/dusk, walking dogs on a leash, not feeding deer or other wildlife and knowing your neighborhood,” Dennehy said in the email.

Cody Mann covers the cities of Albany and Lebanon. He can be contacted at 541-812-6113 or Cody.Mann@lee.net.

“They’ve seen a few cougars out there with some of their neighbors over the last year or two, but never that close to their house or in the middle of the day like that.” ~Kamron Miller

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