Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Oregon cougar hunting under fire

Conservationists and hunters are clashing over Oregon's cougar hunting regulations. ODFW wants to ease a law passed in 1994, Measure 18, which banned hunting cougars with dogs. According to Portland Independent Media Center, ODFW wants to get more leverage to deputize hunters to chase problem cougars with hounds.



Not that a lack of hounds is slowing hunters down. According to an article in the Mail Tribune, hunters killed a record 284 cougars in Oregon last year, the highest total mortality of cougars ever logged in the state.

But at the same time, cougar numbers are up. ODFW said cougars were nearly eliminated in Oregon by the mid-1960s, but today the cougar population in Oregon is estimated to be 5,100. The minimum desirable number of cougar in the state is 3,000.

Obviously some bloggers are taking an anti-hunting stance, but there are just as many voices on the other side, like the Oregon Hunters Association which is offering prizes for hunters that bag cougars.

I don't have a clear stance on this -- I have a cougar tag, but I'm not sure I could use it. I think hunters should be able to hunt cougar; but it should cost more than $10 to do it. Killing less than 6% of the cougar population per year seems sustainable, but that number seems arbitrary.

I'd like to see a better argument for killing cougars than avoiding "problem animal" situations. The conservationists are tearing that one apart, as they should. It's pretty flimsy. If they charged more for tags, opened it up to trophy-chasing non-residents and delivered the money to habitat conservation, that would be better.

9 comments:

Karen said...

How do you think ODFW comes up with the population figures you quoted from their website?

The problem I see with this bill is that it will deputize hound hunters to do a job for the state. That means they'll be able to do just about whatever they want, including cross private property lines and cause all sorts of havoc. The problems I've experienced with hunters, especially when they have hounds running, is that they'll shoot at anything including livestock and their hounds terrorize the domestic animals en route to the wild ones. You may say these hunters are the minority - but if they were a cougar, the law would tell me to shoot 'em dead for what they'd done.

matt_stansberry said...

Hey Karen, thanks for the comment.

I can't speak for ODFW's numbers, but I have an opinion on why they want to keep the cougar population down. Elk and deer tag fees pay biologist wages. Less elk and deer = less hunters, thus less hunter dollars.

As a hunter I can say I don't buy into the livestock thing. I'm not saying it doesn't happen -- but no one I've ever hunted with has ever harrassed domestic animals.

And I don't have a problem with running dogs after the hunters who are acting that way.

Brian said...

Matt-

Thanks for posting the article about cougar killing in Oregon. A potential resurgence of hound hunting of cougars is not the only threat facing this glorious cats. The ODFW has essentially undermined the very intent of the hounding ban -- to turn back decades of persecution of cougars. The hounding ban was not simply to end a reprehensible practice. It was also intended to protect cougars. Yet, the ODFW has bent over backwards to accommodate hunters still fuming about the hounding ban. The agency has reduced the price of a cougar tag to a paltry $10, permitted hunters to kill cougars nearly year round, and increased the number of cougars a hunter can kill to two. Oregonians had hoped that the hounding ban would bring some relief to cougars. But more cougars are being killed in Oregon than ever before.

Morgan Murphy said...

Hello and thanks for the posts.... However the reason ODFW wants the cougars killed is because there is a amazing falling number of deer and turkey lately in Oregon primarily from the effect of Mountain lions.
In result ODFW researched to find a study on just how much the cougars effect deer.
It is proven that a cougear kills 3 to 5 deer in one week! Compared to Oregon hunters killing maybe one deer a year.
The population of cougars is exploding causing ODFW to try to find a way to keep the population down.
They have placed a vote from county to county to see if dogs should be allowed again. (personally I think they should)

As for the question on why more cougars are being killed now that before is simple to answer. There are now so many cougars that they are easier to find and often hunters run into cougars while hunting.
I personally hunt and have had close encounters, and my father was almost pounced on by one.
I love the animal but there are to many and there needs to be double the amount currently shot every year.

Thanks for the remarkable post.

Anonymous said...

I beleave that hound hunting for cougars should be legle for differnt reason i spend over 200 days in the feild hunting, scouting or looking for shed antlers there are many times when i have encounterd cougars for example i was bowhunting elk and i have had a cougar stalk me crouched down and easing towards me before i was able to take a shot he turned and walked off not scared and many times when they have been way too close and there are nights at my house when my dog starts barking her head off and i go outside to see whats the matter and see a 150 pound cat walkint to the house under 20 yards. the poing is they have all fear of humans i have just been luckt not to run in to one with an empty stomach. Also they are real hard on the deer population a cougar will kill a deer every week on average and where i go deer hunting i know of about 4 cats in less than a 10 radius one cat will kill over 52 deer a year do the math 4 cats 52 deer

Anonymous said...

Dods need to be brought back, over this past Deer hunt I came accross a new kill by a Cougar, let's just say that that Tom will not eat another meal.

During Elk season last year I was in a tree stand about 30' up and had 1 big cat come within 20' of my tree so I took him out.

It'stime to bring out the dogs.

Anonymous said...

A reprehensible act, hound hunting, I think not. Just like any other group of people there are bad apples, but the majority of them are very concerned about their dogs chasing something they're not supposed to, property rights, and the proper management of cougars. Opening up the cougar hunt to high priced out of state hunters is ludicrous, what about the citizens of the state which have paid and sacrificed, for years, to better their game animal populations. Now your going to let out of state hunters hunt more cougars. This is an emotional topic and the emotion needs to be taken out of it. General hunting of cougarsis a poor way to have them managed, as hunters without hounds cannot properly sex the cougar and can aften times kill a female with kittens. Paying "government" hunters to hunt them cost the state money. Why not get emotion out of it and allow hound hunters to pursue them. They PAY the citizens of the state for the right as do any other big game hunter. THEY can properly sex the cat at the tree and determine if it should be killed or not. The one thing most cougar"protection" groups out there need to know is that the thrill is in the chase and not the anti-climatic kill. Most cougar hunters would rather leave the cat to live another day just to enjoy the chase again. Plus this will put the fear of man back in this top predator.

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone that is interested in evaluating and promoting the need for better cougar management in Oregon.!
It is very true that the issue of hound hutning versus general hunting of cougars is both controversial and emotional. I absoulutely aggree that the EMOTION needs to be removed from the issue, and just evaluate the facts. Unfortunately, the facts are often obscure or misinterpreted.
As suburban/rural sprawl continues to increase and encroach on the cougars' natural habitat (i.e. the forests), the cougar population continues to increase exponetially, encroaching furthur on to farms, ranches and suburban neighborhoods.
This big cat population will never be controlled or 'managed' by the general hunting population! Even experienced hunters that can kill a deer or elk every year, will admit that the opportunity to kill a cougar is much less frequent. Do we want to wait until the cougar population swells so much that every hunter, including inexperienced or juvinile hunters are looking over their shoulders, fearing that they may have to fight a cougar for their next meal while trying to hunt one of the few deer left in the woods...!? Or do we want to fight the state and it's long term, inefficient plan to manage cougars with more tags, and a few experienced gov't hunters?
The gov't hunters will do a great job- filling damage complaints, and going on specified hunts for 'problem animals', but this will not be enough. We need to reinstitute the use of hound hunting- without the stigma that it has had in the past! Hound hunters work very hard to take good care of their dogs, train them well, and provide them with a fair chase. With requirements for training of both hunter and dog, along with proper tagging of the cougar killed- hound hunting will be and excellent way to increase revenue for the state, and reduce toe cougar population efficiently to the 3000 desirable cougars that the state can support! Why not hafe a five year trial peroid for hound hunting to return, then reevaluate the number of cougars killed during that time? it took a long time to "virtually wipe out the cougar pop'n" back in the sixties- it took less than ten years for the population to explode to epidemic proportions!
Let's give the hound hunters a chance to protect our ranches, livestock and children- while balancing the population of one of our country's most beautiful and dangerous predators! hound hunters are conservationists too.
Otherwise in a generation we may be putting Blacktail Deer and Roosevelt Elk on the endangered species list in the Northwest. Where would the environmentalists and conservationists be then?...

Peter said...

Measure 18 was passed with an intent to protect cougars for animal cruelty reasons. Of course the majority of the voters for this measure were from urban areas with liberal and sensitive viewpoints towards the animal that they never had to encounter in their city homes. On the other hand, this measure directly affects people living in rural areas who rely on their livestock for living. There is a strong causal relationship that this measure resulted in enormous increase in the number of cougars (+3000 as of 2009, which is double the amount of desirable number of cougars according to the ODFW, a government agency that is funded not only to protect the wild life but to protect your children in the backyard.).

So I understand that cougars are some beautiful cats and that I'd love to see them not go distinct. However, cougars are not exactly some house cats that pose no dangers. Cougars are mountain lions and they are predators. Predators are animals that "kill" to feed themselves in order to survive. Predators are very much needed in our echo system to maintain a natural balance of food chain. Without predators, plant-eating animals' population will increase and the amount of vegetation will decrease and number of diseases will increase that pose threats to all living creatures including humans. We must use reasonable scientific facts and put our priority in protecting human beings and our echo system.

Here is another bit of scientific fact. Cougars are very territorial animals. Each cougar's turt ranges upto 100 miles. Cougars are not only so quick, they are excellent stalkers. They sneak up on you silently and observe your movements waiting to make a kill. It is nearly impossible to hunt cougars on foot. Cougars are almost invisible in the woods if you go hunting for one without any aid of hounds.

Now it's about time that the intent of Measure 18 no longer deals with a necessary issue. It's simply collecting cholesterols in the state of Oregon. Any good society must have balanced system that helps the most people instead of ones that disregard a lot of important and actual issues to people's lives.