Mapping Portland's Urban Predators

Coyotes, cougars, and bears—oh my! We take a look at the creatures that share this wilderness we call home.

By Virginia Gewin September 26, 2014 Published in the October 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

wayward black bear cruised through Northeast Portland in June. Over the summer, the city logged about a dozen urban cougar sightings. Some Portlanders anxiously wondered just how wild Portland could get. Others marveled at the wealth of urban creatures—and while our 209 species of birds are more ubiquitous, big carnivores definitely grab our attention.

“The Portland/Vancouver region has 40,000 acres of natural areas, including 15,000 managed by Metro,” says Jonathan Soll, Metro’s science and stewardship manager. “Predators are part of nature, and a certain amount of contact is inevitable.” (Attacks, however, are rare.) Most carnivores that wander the urban landscape are just passing through, often young adults forced to seek out unclaimed territory. “Portlanders like green spaces, and these natural corridors can act as highways for wildlife to come and go,” says Don Whittaker, a biologist at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. And, perhaps, remind us that we’re not the only big, formidable animals around here.

COYOTE SIGHTINGS: Coyotes live in every Portland neighborhood except downtown. They thrive on rats, mice, and squirrels, but occasionally claim domestic pets. Check out Alameda above—Northeast Portland’s Coyote Central! 

THE NE PORTLAND BEAR: How did a bear end up at NE 35th Avenue and Killingsworth Street? Best guess: The young black bear may have been displaced by an older male. He may have ventured through the Sandy River Delta and used golf courses, islands, and parks along Marine Drive as a route to the Columbia Slough, then dodged through neighborhood parks and landscaped areas.

COUGARS: Cougars chase prey (usually deer) from outlying rural areas into metro Portland. Some young cougars forced by their elders to find their own territory may travel through urban terrain as passersby. Select 2014 Sightings:

  • Ridgewood Elementary, Beaverton
  • Mill Park, SE Division Street
  • NE 148th Avenue and Sacramento
  • NE 115th Avenue and Siskiyou Street
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