Oregon’s assumptions on cougar hunting misplaced

George Wuerthner critiques the assumption that cougar hunting will decrease conflict with humans.

Oregon’s assumptions on cougar hunting misplaced – George Wuerthner, NewWest.net

Oregon, like many western states, allows cougar hunting. Part of the justification for hunting is the assumption that killing cougars will reduce livestock losses and increase public safety.  There is, however, growing scientific evidence that suggests that sport hunting is more likely to increase cougar predation on livestock and may even increase the likelihood of cougar attacks on humans.





  1. mikepost Avatar

    California’s experience has been exactly the opposite. In the 20 some years that hunting has been halted, human-cat conflicts have risen dramatically, particularly in urban/wilderness interfaces, with several fatalities. Perhaps more telling, the Calif Fish and Game now issue more depredation permits (or take them themselves) each year for killing problem cats than where ever taken in the prior legal hunts. Most for livestock losses in ag areas.

    If the California experience tells us anything, it is that the mountain lion is a very emotional and polarizing animal that brings as much social and political goofyness into the wildlife management process as the whole wolf ordeal has experienced.

    1. Jon Way Avatar

      Actually Mike,
      there has been research showing that CA has a less problems with lions per capita than in other states. I don’t have the study on me but have definitely read that.

      Also, the level of depredation (about 100 per year) is likely less than would be killed by sport-hunting so I’m not so sure if more are killed than would be taken in legal hunts. And as Ralph frequently cites with wolves, many of these killings seem to be revenge in nature. For instance, a guy with a a couple of prized mini-horses loses one to mt. lions. He wants the lion killed instead of better protecting his horses. Just an example, but I know there are groups working on reducing these types of things from happening.

      I agree with your 2nd paragraph about the lion being emotional and polarizing. Most predators are, including common ones like coyotes…

      1. Jayne Miller Avatar

        My contacts at Calif Fish and Game have informed me that their cougar population is in decline.

      2. wolf moderate Avatar
        wolf moderate

        Post link please. It is hard to believe that is true. The Fish and Game representative must have some reports or something to come to the conclusion that the cougar population in California is in decline.

        Oregon doesn’t allow baiting or hunting with dogs.


    2. Jayne Miller Avatar

      Hi Mike,
      No, Calif has had less cougar conflicts due to less hunting. ODFW Dr. Jackson stated at a public meeting held in Corvallis, OR last Sept that before M18 there were less cougar killed and there were less conflict reports. After M18 ODFW started an aggressive killing program by increasing the season on cougar, reducing the tags, opened a mandatory 3000 cougar killed per year for “public safety” regardless that no one had ever been hurt by cougar in Oregon, and included the tags in a package deal. According to Dr. Jackson’s stats, we have been killing more cougar after M18 (and without dogs), than before M18 AND he stated that with the increase of the killings, there have been increased conflict reports. Many, in my opinion, are made up from folks who simply hate the cats and want them all gone. ODFW has NEVER held to the letter of the law M18. They have done their very best not to. And for a very long time ODFW has looked the other way with poaching.
      It is not a cougar issue, it is a human issue. Folks just hate city folks because they voted in M18. For 50 years or more I have ranched, farmed and owned business here in Oregon. In my opinion these new rural folks are not the salt of the earth Oregon was made from. In fact, they are pretty darn dumb to take Legislative time and money for mostly made up cougars issues over more serious issues like rural school help.
      So, when do we put the cougar on the endangered list and when does the wolf go back on too? Hunters are costing folks more money then they are worth.

      1. Phil Avatar

        Jayne Miller: That is an interesting post. Thank you for sharing it.

      2. Mike Avatar

        It’s not a surprise. Avoiding improving schools and other pertinent structural issues is exactly how these people grew to be anti-predator to begin with.

  2. jon Avatar

    California has got it right. Wish more states would be like California. We need to protect the wildlife instead of letting humans kill it for sport.

    1. mikepost Avatar

      So Jon, its better to have more of the cats killed by wardens and professional trappers with depredation permits than to allow some hunting at a lower number and get a population of cats that begins to understand that humans are dangerous and should be avoided…??? The whole point was that there would be more cats alive today if hunting had not been outlawed. It aint always so simple Jon in spite of our desire for moral simplisity…

      1. jon Avatar

        I wouldn’t say it’s better, but for some reason or another, a lot of people don’t like the idea of hunters killing cougars for sport. I’m sure they don’t like game wardens having to kill cougars either. it sucks cougars have to be killed period imo. Look at places where cougars are allowed to be hunted and hunted with dogs. In these places, they are having problems with cougars killing alot of livestock. Clearly hunting cougars does not make them stay away from livestock as there are a lot of livestock being killed in places where cougars are hunted.

  3. jon Avatar

    and also, Robert Wielgus, director of Washington State University’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, says more than 10 years of work tracking cougars indicates that losses of livestock to cougars go up in heavily hunted areas: “It’s counterintuitive and hard for people to swallow.”

  4. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Mikepost the reason cougars in California are different is that there is no food for them there in the back country. They have to follow their food into suburbia where the grass is. Hunting or not hunting is probably not as much of a factor as just plain cat survival tactics of going where the food is.

  5. Jayne Miller Avatar

    In 1995 ODFW picked an arbitrary number not based on science, but instead based on politics with which to start their cougar computer population count. ODFW does not know if the arbitrary number is a sustainable population number, or even if it is a correct count. It was just a wild guess.

    Oregonians need to ask two questions regarding their cougar:

    1.  If killing 6,762 cougars over a 44-year time period once almost wiped out the cougar population in Oregon, why does ODFW believe    
    that killing 7,468 cougars over the past 43+-years of regulated cougar hunt hasn’t produced similar results?
    2.   If a regionally-close state (Washington) has the same cougar hunting restrictions, as well as analogous cougar hunting policies (without the additional administrative removal plan), and that state’s policies and actions have resulted in a significant reduction in their cougar population, why does ODFW believe that similar results are not taking place in Oregon?
    Of the mandatory tag reporting of killed wildlife, ODFW stated that only 35% are turned in. Which means more cougar are being killed than reported.
    ODFW Cougar Ecology program presented to the public last September 29, 2010 by Dr. Jackson. He stated that Collard cat studies show the impact that humans have on cougar mortality. Only the legal percent of sold tags are counted and not the other human caused deaths as follows: ODFW Dr. Jackson’s public comment stats showed 32% of cougar are poached, 27% are killed legally. Poached cougar exceed licensed kills and are not deducted from ODFW’s cougar population count. 27% are killed from conflict, for a total of 86% of cougars killed by humans that are not deducted from ODFW’s cougar population count. Cougars killed by natural causes: 37% from other cougars, 31% from disease, 20% from parasites, and 11% from injury. These are also not deducted.

    Oregon State Police Stats show that more deer, elk and other wildlife including cougar are poached than legally killed. California Fish & Game website under “poaching” states that the Black Market Poaching operation out of Calif is a $100,000,000 annual issue. Oregon is no exception.

    We have killed more cougar after M18 than before M18 due to the fact that ODFW changed their cougar hunting policy. After M18 ODFW increased cougar hunting season on one year, lowered to tag costs, included the tags in a package deal, started a “Public Safety” program with a mandatory kill of 3000 cougar per year.

    So over the last minimum 17 years with poaching exceeding legal kills, the mandatory tag reporting count is off, cougar cubs killed are not included in the population model, the “Public Safety Kills of 3000 per year, that fact that we have a Bill already allowing hounds to hunt cougar for the last 4 years (2971) and all the above mentioned kills of cougar; ODFW cannot hit the cougar quota kill because there are not enough cougar left in Oregon to fill the kill rate.

    Those cougar showing up near humans are there because they were not raised in the wild by their mother. They were raised another way. Check out YouTube for pet domesticated cougar that were taken from the wild as a cub after their mother was shot and raised in captivity. Sad to think of, but all the current cougar Bills 2337, 3636, 3560, & 3013 support this kind of activity and a prolific poaching market that is a $100,000,000 annual operation out of Calif. Recent OR wildlife poached body parts have shown up as far away as Illinois.

    Oregonians need an unbiased outside peer review done on our cougars and the voters need to vote again.  Don’t support politicians who support trickery, poor management policy and animal abuse.

    Protect voter rights and not hunter rights and block these Bills. Yearly more pet domestic dogs attack humans than cougar have in the last 100 years. More dogs kill livestock than cougar and bobcat combined. There is no money behind killing dogs. There is money behind killing cougar. $6K per dog, $12K per hunt. 4 years ago we allowed a limited group to kill cougar with

  6. Jayne Miller Avatar

    (sorry, got too many word in! Here is the rest of the sentance and statement) hounds. They had to pass a criminal background check & have no animal abuse issues or violated ODFW laws. Not enough folks could pass to support the hounddog business so now there are 4 Bills to kill cougar with hounds.  HB2337,HB3636, HB3560, HB3013 are trickery to overturn M18, none of which are truly about public & livestock safety. ODFW stats show that more deer, elk & cougar are poached than legally taken. Cougar kill less wildlife for their food than poachers kill. Calif has an annual $100 Million annual BLACK MARKET poaching issue that Oregon is NOT immune from. All 4 Bills are a gift to poachers. OSP stats show TAXPAYING Oregonians lost nearly $6 Million to poaching, but not all poaching is caught so the $ are higher! If poaching were stopped, cougar would not be blamed for low wildlife numbers! Cougar are extinct in 36 States due to poor policy making & sports hunting. It took between 47 & 51 years to get at least 3K cougar back. We don’t know how many cougar we have because ODFW is reported by Dr. Jane Goodall as having one of the poorest cougar management plans in the world. Mandatory tag kill reporting is at a low 35% which means more cougar are being killed than reported which makes the computer model numbers wrong. Since M18, more cougar have been killed than before M18 due to ODFW changing their hunting policy regarding cougar.The cougar is more than just the key cornerstone to our ecosystems, it is the apparent cornerstone to VOTER RIGHTS! DON’T LET HUNTERS AND POACHERS OVERTURN THE VOICE OF THE VOTERS! PROTECT O.U.R. COUGAR! 




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    1. william huard Avatar
      william huard

      Conservative house legislatures all over the country are passing these type of radical bills. If I’m not mistaken isn’t your house Senate Democratic? And your Governor is a pro-environment Democrat right? All is not lost, your Governor can veto these bills, and there is always ballot initiative

    2. Ryan Avatar

      I have a few questions on this cut and paste you posted.

      1)started a “Public Safety” program with a mandatory kill of 3000 cougar per year.

      to my knowledge oregon has never taken 3000 cats a year. Do you have any info backing up this claim?

      2) While I won’t argue poaching is a problem, do you have a study to back up your poaching claim?

      “They had to pass a criminal background check & have no animal abuse issues or violated ODFW laws. Not enough folks could pass to support the hounddog business”

      3)Any Sources on this claim?

      We don’t know how many cougar we have because ODFW is reported by Dr. Jane Goodall as having one of the poorest cougar management plans in the world.

      4) How about this claim?

    3. Ryan Avatar

      I read your webpage, I would like to see sources on your claims and data.


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Brian Ertz