August 27, 2009

Oregon cougar management: Dogs and big cats?

A trio of reported cougar sightings in Keno offers a chance to comment on the recent efforts of Oregon Republican legislators (with two House Democrats) to further repeal the state’s ban on allowing hunters to deploy dogs against the big cats. The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 792 sought to permit the “use of dogs to hunt cougars during [the] final three months of general cougar hunting season if [the] State Fish and Wildlife Commission determines that [the] harvest quota for [a] particular hunt zone may not be met.” The legislative session ended with the bill still in committee.

The 2007 Oregon legislature previously exempted private hound hunters from Oregon’s ban on hounding cougars and allowed State-appointed agents to join in hounding, trapping, and killing cougars in three target areas. The proposed law would have extended the exemption to anyone with a hunting license, inviting a parade of sportsmen into the designated zones as reinforcements to fire away in an attempt to fill the quota.

The number of cougar tags sold in 2008 was higher than ever, and cougar kills have more than doubled since 1994, when the sport hunting with hounds ban was passed. The Oregon Cougar Management Plan has been criticized heavily. Center for Biological Diversity conservation biologist Noah Greenwald has said there is “absolutely no scientific basis for killing as many as 2,000 cougars in Oregon as proposed by the Oregon Department of Wildlife.” The cougar plan, which calls for killing up to 2,000 animals, reportedly costs taxpayers a some half a million dollars or more a year to implement.

Public education and nonlethal wildlife programs can reduce conflicts with cougars and save money because wildlife agency personnel do not have to respond to frequent complaints of property damage by wildlife. When the current Oregon cougar plan ends in 2011, policy makers should revise their approach based on science, not throw what remains of the hounding ban to the dogs.

The Law Office of Dane E. Johnson is an Oregon animal law and personal injury law firm ready to assist with all animal-related legal issues. Please contact us at (503) 975-8298 or visit our website. Oregon animal lawyer Dane Johnson offers a free case consultation.

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