JACKSONVILLE, OR – A coalition of
ranchers, conservationists, and animal welfare groups has vowed to halt the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) plan to kill the state’s cougars.
Despite public outcry over the ODFW plan, the agency has begun killing the big
cats. According to the Associated Press last week, “A state wildlife
agent trapped and shot two young cougars in Jackson County,
the first of two dozen to be killed in that part of the state in a study of
whether reducing populations of the animals improves public safety and reduces
the loss of livestock. Nine cougars have already been killed in north-central Oregon as part of the
study, state figures show.”
To make matters worse, opponents of the 1994
ban on hound hunting of cougars have introduced legislation (HB 2971) that
would permit the ODFW to deputize trophy hunters as agents to kill cougars. The
bill would also allow hunters to use hounds to chase down cougars, essentially
rolling back the ban approved by voters. The pro-cougar coalition, recently
formed in response to the ODFW plan, said it would aggressively campaign
against what it called “the wholesale slaughter of one of Oregon’s most misunderstood animals.” The
group said it was reaching out to other ranchers, faith groups, and recreation
interests to save the state’s cougars.
“As a rancher in who depends on the viability
of a dairy herd to generate income, I am troubled that government officials are
using scare tactics to affect policy and appease special interests that have
tried to roll back safeguards for cougars,” said Michael Moss, a goat rancher
in southern Oregon.
But, cougars are not a threat. There
has never been a verified cougar attack on humans in Oregon. And nothing in the plan would
prevent an attack. Because attacks are so rare (the odds of being attacked by a
cougar are less than winning the lottery), it is misguided to use lethal
control that science shows is ineffective. Cougar expert, Dr. Rick Hopkins,
said the ODFW’s plan "would not reduce the risk of being attacked in Oregon, as the current
risk is so small as not to be reasonably measured. Those who live or recreate
in cougar country expose themselves daily to many more risky activities and yet
they never consider nor concern themselves with the true risk these activities
The coalition also said the ODFW’s continued
emphasis on killing cougars as a “management” tool would divert resources away
from techniques that are far more effective in reducing conflicts, such as
appropriate land-use planning, improved animal husbandry, and public education.
The groups said individuals could take simple steps, like avoiding feeding
wildlife, bringing pets 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 avoid conflicts with the wild cats.
“The ODFW plan is not about ‘management’ or
‘culling’ or dealing with ‘problem’ cougars. It is about killing, pure and
simple. And deputizing hunters to do the dirty business of chasing cougars with
hounds and gunning them down won’t make this plan any better,” said Brian
Vincent, Communications Director for the newly created organization, Big
Wildlife, an international wildlife protection organization.