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Big Cat Advocates Oppose Plan To Kill Cougars

Oregon’s 2016 big-game hunting regulations will be on the agenda when the Fish and Wildlife Commission meets in Florence Oct. 8 and 9. 

Specifically the commission will discuss opening up target areas where “cougar numbers will be proactively reduced in response to established criteria” for cougar conflicts with humans, livestock or other game animals such as mule deer.

There were no target areas in 2014 and 2015, but the commission is proposing to open up four areas in 2016. One of them is to reduce livestock and safety conflicts, two are for improving mule deer populations and the fourth is for mule deer and bighorn sheep.

 Cougar advocates want the state to know that “the people of Oregon want cougars well managed and not killed en masse because of ill-conceived schemes that have no scientific validity,” as Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon director for the Humane Society of the United States, puts it. 

In a call to Facebook followers to come and testify on Oct. 9, the group Predator Defense compares cougars to Cecil, the African lion killed by an American hunter, saying, “America’s mountain lions are experiencing the same fate as Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most famous and beloved lion, illegally killed in July by a Minnesota dentist on a trophy hunt.” The group continues, “But what’s happening here is even worse — the slaughter is legal and being carried out by government agents on behalf of deer hunters.”

Beckstead of HSUS tells EW, “The policy of treating wild ungulates like free-roaming livestock to be ‘harvested’ and wild carnivores as vermin to be exterminated is an archaic approach to wildlife management that ignores the evolving humane values of most Oregonians.” He points out that voters have opposed twice allowing recreational hunters to use hounds to hunt cougars in 1994 and 1996.

According to the commission’s agenda information, depending on the area, the cougar killing would be carried out by volunteer agents, federal Wildlife Services and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at an annual cost of almost $70,000 to remove 95 cougars. Sally Mackler, native carnivore advocate for Predator Defense, says “federal agents from the USDA’s Wildlife Services and local houndsmen deputized by ODFW are immune from state law banning use of hounds by trophy hunters.”

Beckstead says that “using packs of radio-collared trailing hounds and neck snares to indiscriminately kill Oregon cougars” in the target zones “under the guise of protecting mule deer and reducing conflicts with humans and livestock is just poor wildlife management, not scientifically valid.”

Mackler adds, “Science shows that cougar predation is a minor influence on mule deer population, and the main reasons for decline are habitat, nutritional quality of and access to forage.”

The groups are calling for a stop to “indiscriminate killing” and for the use of up-to-date science on the big cats, especially in light of the fact that Oregon’s management plan for cougars is due to be revised and updated next year. “Cougars should be conserved for all, not just managed for a few trophy hunters,” Predator Defense, HSUS and 10 other groups say in their comments to the ODFW commission.

Those who wish to testify about the plan can go to the 8 am meeting at the Driftwood Shores Resort, Pacific Room, 2nd floor, 88416 1st Ave. in Florence.