Cannon Beach, Oregon, reopens after a cougar sighting on an iconic coastal rock led to its closure

CANNON BEACH, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s Cannon Beach, which was closed over the weekend after a cougar was spotted on the iconic Haystack Rock, reopened to visitors Monday after the animal left.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said officials confirmed the big cat had left the steep coastal formation. A game camera captured an image of it leaving the rock on Sunday evening, and tracks were also found moving away, federal officials said.

Multiple agencies and organizations, from local and state police to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Parks and Recreation, responded to the cougar sighting Sunday morning. The beach has been closed in order to protect people and allow them to return to their usual habitat.

State biologists believe the cougar ventured to Haystack Rock at low tide on Saturday night to chase the birds, behavior they had never seen before at that site.

“Although the wooded areas along the coast are prime habitat for cougars, it is unusual for a cougar to visit Haystack Rock,” said Paul Atwood, a biologist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife at Oregon, in a statement. “Their main food source is deer, but they will also consume elk, other mammals and birds.

However, cougars have been documented traveling to other similar small islands off Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, US Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Megan Nagel said by email.

Haystack Rock, protected as part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, teems with seabirds and marine life in the summer.

From March to September, tufted puffins, common guillemots, pigeon guillemots and black oystercatchers raise their young on the formation.

Part of the rock is closed all year round to all public use to protect nesting and roosting birds.

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