As her sister told the Oregonian this week, Bober had been an actress in New York City and Los Angeles, then a professional Texas hold ’em player in Las Vegas. She relocated to the Pacific Northwest in 2015 after visiting and falling in love with the region.
“She was very independent and always felt very safe on the trails,” Alison Bober told the paper.
But after failing to hear from Bober for a few days, relatives reported her missing on Aug. 29. Authorities located her 1996 Mazda Miata last Friday parked at the Zigzag Ranger Station at the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness area. Pushing into the Hunchback Trail, searchers discovered her body two miles from the station. On Tuesday, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts announced Bober likely was killed by a wild cougar — a very uncommon occurrence.
“From my understanding, this is the first attack by a cougar that took a life of an individual in Oregon,” Roberts told reporters at a news conference. “As a sheriff, I am extremely concerned for the public’s safety.”
The trail where Bober was killed has been closed down as authorities search for the animal. Authorities are also waiting for official word that the hiker was killed by a cougar.
“There’s a slim possibility that something else is responsible, but at this point, every indication is that a cougar is responsible,” Brian Wolfer, a watershed manager with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, told reporters. “We’re seeking confirmation of that from the U.S. First and Wildlife Service lab when they analyze the samples that we’ve sent them.”
There are around 6,600 wild cougars roaming across Oregon, Wolfer said. They’re territorial animals, often hugging to the same 15 to 40 square miles of wilderness. Each year, the state fields around 400 reports of cougars attacking livestock.
But run-ins with humans are rare. KOMO News reported the only other verified fatal cougar attack on a human in state history occurred in 2013. The incident involved an animal in captivity turning on a handler at a sanctuary. Bober’s death, if confirmed as a wild cougar attack, would be a first for the state.
“This is a very tragic event. It’s an unprecedented event,” Wolfer said Tuesday. “We don’t have indication that things have changed and there’s an increased public threat from the average cougar. This cougar is one we want to be able to locate for public safety.”
The attack isn’t the first cougar-related death to grab headlines recently. As The Washington Post previously reported in May, two bicyclists outside of Seattle were stalked and attacked by a cougar. One of the riders, S.J. Brooks, was killed in the encounter.
Both Brooks’s and Bober’s deaths remain outliers. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, there have only been 125 reported cougar-on-human attacks in North America over the last 100 years. Twenty-seven of the encounters were deadly.