Say Plan Violates Federal
Law, Lacks Scientific Credibility
PORTLAND, OR - A coalition of ranchers and wildlife advocates filed
suit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to stop the
federal government from indiscriminately killing cougars across the state. The
plaintiffs, led by the Goat Ranchers of Oregon, charge that officials at the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services did not examine all the
adverse environmental impacts of their decision to kill cougars on behalf of
the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, in violation of the National
Environmental Policy Act.
plan to kill up to 2,000 cougars in Oregon
will hurt ranchers and farmers. By killing established adult cougars,
government officials are skewing the population towards younger cats more often
implicated in conflict with domestic animals. By implementing a plan based on
bad science and inaccurate cougar population estimates, officials are actually
creating the problem their plan claims to address,” said Michael Moss of the
Goat Ranchers of Oregon and a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
2006, the state approved a plan to kill up to 2,000 cougars across Oregon.
The federal government then agreed to help carry out that plan. In its lawsuit,
the ranchers contend the federal government’s implementation of the plan is
based on scientifically flawed data. For instance, a study published in The
Journal of Wildlife Management in 2006 found that cougar populations in the
are actually declining due in part to increased human intrusion on
cougar habitat and a young age structure of the cougar population caused by
heavy hunting. The Journal study also recommended reduced hunting
levels, particularly among adult females, throughout the Pacific Northwest.
is absolutely no scientific basis for killing as many as 2,000 cougars in Oregon
as proposed by the Oregon Department of Wildlife,” stated Noah Greenwald,
conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “By maintaining
the health of deer and elk populations, the cougar is a critical component of
the web of life in Oregon.”
agriculture interests have typically been staunch opponents of protecting
cougars, a growing number of ranchers and farmers in the state are coming to
the defense of the big cats. They said that rather than killing cougars, Oregon
should educate ranchers and farmers, as well as the general public, about how
to avoid conflicts with wildlife. The pro-cougar ranchers and farmers said
individuals can take simple steps – like avoiding feeding wildlife, bringing
companion animals in at night, sheltering domestic farm and ranch animals,
installing motion lighting around their property, recreating with others while
in cougar country, and educating their families about cougars without
instilling undue fear – to prevent encounters with cougars and other wildlife.
The ranchers' suit claims the USDA largely ignored the use of non-lethal,
preventative alternatives for managing cougars.
addition to the Goat Ranchers of Oregon, the lawsuit was brought on behalf of
Big Wildlife, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center,
Mountain Lion Foundation, and Umpqua Watersheds.