Washington State to try to manage cougars based on science instead of politics

When cougar incidents spike, a general hunt is not the answer, but what is?

In the past in Washington State and other states too, the common solution to an increasing number of complaints about cougars around livestock or houses has been a hunt. This is a political response based on simple thinking that more incidents must mean too many cougars. So, let’s reduce the cougar population overall with a general hunt.

The result of such hunts, however, has often been even more cougar incidents despite a reduced cougar population — a lose, lose situation where people and big cats both suffer.

The reason this happens has to do with young toms and old, wise, strong toms. The biggest mortality factor for cougar is usually other cougar. The big tom cougar win a place in the best habitat, and they kill young interlopers.  In a general hunt, however, cougar hunters take to the hills, usually the remote hills, and kill a disproportionate number of the big toms. The opening created causes chaos while young toms compete to fill it.  It is the young toms that get into the great majority of trouble with people.

So cougar hunting and cougar management can be successful, it seems , only if the age structure of the cougar population is not changed.

The Methow Valley News on-line has a detailed article how Washington is trying to change to the management method based on what scientists have discovered about cougar populations and this tom cat conflict. Managing the big cats. By Admin





  1. Cris Waller Avatar
    Cris Waller

    What is saddening about the implementation of this research is that the most obvious solution of all; the clearest implication of this research, is just too politically dangerous to mention…don’t hunt cougars. Leave them alone.

  2. Cris Waller Avatar
    Cris Waller

    BTW- check out the article that was linked to at the bottom of the cougar article- http://methowvalleynews.com/2013/08/07/dogs-caught-in-wolf-traps-set-on-forest-service-land/

  3. jdubya Avatar

    ““The No. 1 cause of death in the wild is cougars killing cougars,” Beausoleil said. “The strongest ones and the ones with the best genes survive.””

    Hell will freeze over before SFW-run Utah DWR would accept that finding.

  4. Robert Goldman Avatar
    Robert Goldman

    Gee, wildlife management based on actual wildlife science, not political “science”, that respects the social structure of cougars and manages populations in a balanced and reasonable way. Now, why is that not a federal law for all native wildlife? And by the way, that enlightened federal law could also include provisions for no hunting of wolves and other native predators that need no “management” as well as a nation-wide ban on hounding, trapping, snaring and poisoning, all of which are not hunting but are criminal animal abuse and cruelty.

  5. Jon Way Avatar

    Thanks for posting this important article, Ralph. Clearly all other forms of carnivore hunting are loosely based on science and certainly not science from an ecosystem or behavioral standpoint. This should catch on for all carnivores in all states, yet the Rocky Mts are still slaughtering wolves and ID reported increased depredations despite their high wolf kill, yet they seem perplexed by this. I assume they will conveniently ignore this article…

    1. Rancher Bob Avatar
      Rancher Bob

      I’m sure this type of hunting will catch on, if you read the last part they killed 150 lions last year, which matches closely to the 5 year average. They just micro managed the take, based on population growth and size of lions home range. If you want a constant population you harvest the potential of that animals growth. If you want population decrease you harvest more than the potential population growth. Sounds very much like what happens currently with larger districts.

      1. Jon Way Avatar

        R Bob,
        It is more complicated with that with carnivores and the point of the piece was that they aren’t just harvesting the potential of the population as lions can have reproductive rates higher than indicated. They are “harvesting” based on social behavior. For instance, while coyotes can compensate for ~50% annual mortality, it is much lesser if social/behavioral factors are factored in. ID and MT are not doing this with wolves, coyotes, or even lions. But yes, allowing a certain kill in a micromanaged area is a better way to protect the social dynamics in a given area.

  6. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    This is my e-mail

  7. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    Can anyone explain to an easterner where this is all going lesser kills of wildlife ? I really do love wildlife ;Richie

  8. Snaildarter Avatar

    I wish we could reintroduce cougars here in Georgia the ecosystem certainly would benefit from it but it’s politically impossible. The bubbas would never stand for it. A hunter shot a Florida Panther who strayed up to middle Georgia a couple of years ago. Clearly an endangered species but the State D&R did nothing the Feds had to step in and even they seemed reluctant to do anything. Georiga has fewer people and is better habitat for the poor Panther than Florida.

  9. Marion Ambler Avatar
    Marion Ambler

    Ironically WA did not try to manage their Canada geese scientifically. What do they do…pick animals out of a hat to decide which just get killed and which get managed ‘scientifically’?

    MEDIA RELEASE: Egg Addling Controls Goose Population

    “In a continued effort to control the Canada Goose population in the Okanagan Valley, the Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program is about to begin its annual egg addling program. Over the PAST SIX YEARS, this program has prevented the exponential increase of the non-migratory resident goose population that inhabits the valley all year long………Since the program began in 2007, approximately 7,700 EGGS HAVE BEEN PREVENTED FROM HATCHING THROUGH THIS MINIMALLY INVASIVE APPROACH…. ….In order for the program to succeed, new nests need to be identified. The PUBLIC IS ASKED TO REPORT lone geese, pairs of geese or nest locations on private or public land.”


    In addition to ground surveys, aerial surveys were conducted in 2007 and 2011 to estimate the number of geese residing in the Okanagan Valley and to determine what proportion of the population were hatched that year. THE CANADA GOOSE POPULATION APPEARS TO HAVE STABILIZED THROUGHOUT THE VALLEY.




    1. WM Avatar

      If the management objective is to control “population,” do you have a better way?

  10. Monty Avatar

    In the previous 6 years my son, without dogs, has located about 100 lion kills( 2 elk the rest deer)in the 3 Sisters Wilderness of Oregon. He locates kills based on terrain, vegetation and amount of hair in scat. Depending on time of year, he sees a pattern as to where lions make the majority of kills. My son has the endurance of a navy seal and the mind of a scientist and although, unique, this is his hobby. He does it for one reason…love of the cat! I think he could tell the “experts” a thing or two about Oregon cougars.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan