PORTLAND, Oregon — A missing Gresham woman found dead off a hiking trail near Mount Hood on Monday was likely killed by a cougar days before her discovery, authorities announced Tuesday. It's the state's first confirmed fatal wild cougar attack.
An autopsy determined the wounds found on the body of 55-year-old Diana Bober were caused by a large animal, but DNA samples are being sent to the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland to find more evidence of what harmed Bober, according to agency spokesman Brian Wolfer.
"There's a slim possibly that something else is responsible, but at this point every indication is that a cougar is responsible," he said.
It's not immediately clear when the testing will be completed, Wolfer said, and wildlife officials are on the lookout for the animal that may have been responsible. It's also not yet clear when Bober was attacked, but it likely occurred a couple of days before she was found, according to Wolfer.
Oregon has 6,600 cougars and they typically travel alone, Wolfer said. The state wildlife department receives about 400 complaints a year of cougars damaging livestock or threatening the safety of people or pets, he said. Attacks on people are rare.
The last time a cougar killed a person in Oregon was in 2013 when an animal keeper at a Sherwood-area large cat sanctuary was mauled while while cleaning an enclosure. Also in the Pacific Northwest, one man was killed and another was seriously injured in May by a cougar while mountain bike riding in Washington.
Bober was reported missing by out-of-state relatives on Friday after not hearing from her since August 29, Gresham police said. Her family described her as an avid hiker who frequented the Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge area.
"She would go hiking several times a week," Bober's sister, Alison Bober, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Tuesday. "She was very independent and always felt very safe on the trails."
Bober appeared to have fought the animal that attacked her, her sister said from her home in Virginia. "Although she died of her wounds, the wild animal didn't come back to her," Allison Bober said.
Diana Bober's car was found Saturday at the Zigzag Ranger Station, about 17 miles east of Sandy. She was discovered by search and rescue crews two days later two miles from the ranger station in the Mount Hood National
Forest in Welches off the Hunchback Trail, which has since been closed to the public as a precaution. The public has also been advised to avoid the area.
The Hunchback Trail goes through the heart of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, traverses the forested Hunchback Ridge, according to an online trail guide.
Wolfer said there doesn't appear to be an immediate danger to the public, but hikers should be aware of their surroundings and travel in pairs or groups and to keep pets and children close. Cougars are mostly likely to be out around dawn or dusk, he said.
Diana Bober moved to Gresham in 2015, and was self-employed as an intuitive counselor, a career that gave her a flexible schedule and allowed her time for hiking, her sister said. Their father worked for the government and both she and her sister were born overseas. The family moved around frequently, eventually ending up in Texas, where the girls went to high school and college.
After college, Diana Bober moved to Dallas and then New York City, hoping to break into acting. From New York, she went to Los Angeles, looking to get into film. She later moved to Las Vegas, where she played Texas Hold 'Em professionally.
She grew disenchanted with Las Vegas and after looking at various places to live, Diana came to Portland with her mother, and fell in love with the place.
Alison Bober said the family isn't planning a memorial for her sister because her friends are farflung. If anyone wants to hold a tribute to her, they can "just find one of the open trails and just think about the natural world," Alison said.
"She would say you have to live your life without fear," she said, "Nothing in life is truly safe. That's what she would want, just for people to enjoy the important things in life such as a day of beauty."
Ultimately, Alison remembers her sister as a loyal friend who would do anything for the people she loved and an honest person, who had a lot of adventures.
Then, in the end, her sister said, "she fought a cougar."
Jim Ryan and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.