A famous rock on the Oregon coast had a surprise visitor this weekend: A cougar

Oregon's Haystack Rock looms just off Cannon Beach.
2019 photo of Haystack Rock in Oregon. Officials closed the beach near Haystack Rock after a cougar sighting.
(David Underwood / Getty Images)

Cannon Beach on the coast of Oregon is famous for Haystack Rock, a towering 235-foot sea stack that’s one of the state’s leading tourist attractions and the town square for plenty of seaside locals, including tufted puffins, seabirds and aquatic critters.

But an unexpected visitor graced Haystack Rock over the weekend: a cougar.

Authorities said a cougar was spotted on Haystack Rock early Sunday, leading officials to close a large portion of Cannon Beach “to allow the cougar an area to escape to, from off the rock,” the Cannon Beach Police Department said on a Facebook post. A multi-agency task force of state and local officials was formed to keep both the public and the cougar safe, the department said.

By Monday morning, the cougar had vanished.

“Early [Monday] morning, Oregon State Police and the Department of Fish and Wildlife observed tracks that appeared to be from the cougar leading away from Haystack Rock,” Jason Schermerhorn, the Cannon Beach police chief, said in a statement. “The Coast Guard just flew the area and did not see any signs that the cougar was still on the rock.”


Local residents had gathered on the beach just beyond a cordon of caution tape to catch a sight of the mountain cat. “When we were in town it’s all the news that you have to go out to the rock because there’s a cougar, which is unreal,” Carmen Goetschius, a longtime Oregonian, told local Fox News affiliate KPTV. “This was a must-see.”

The sighting was uncommon, said Cannon Beach City Manager Bruce St. Denis.

“Nobody’s heard of it but if you think about it, [the cougar] might go there every night because he can get in there in the dark and hunt, there’s a lot of food there,” St. Denis told KPTV. “If he leaves in the dark, no one’s going to see him. It’s the only time we’ve found a mountain lion going up into the rock in the morning.”

According to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department, the state is home to about 6,600 cougars, which are largely found in northeast Oregon and the southwest Cascade Mountains. Encounters and sightings are rare, the agency said.