In 1994 Oregonians passed Measure 18. It forbids sport hunters from using dogs to track and kill cougars. Yesterday the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission passed a plan that will allow federal hunters to use dogs to track and kill cougars.
Not problem cougars that are threatening people or killing livestock. No, potential problem cougars. Cougars that are just hanging out, not bothering anybody. To me that sure sounds like killing cougars for sport.
How does it feel, Oregon voters, to have a state agency say to you, “Thanks for telling us how you wanted cougars to be managed. But we’ve got our own ideas. And that includes spending $600,000 to pay federal hunters to kill cougars that aren’t causing any problems.”
Somehow the geniuses at the Fish and Wildlife Commission have come up with a plan that simultaneously irks predator defense folks and sport hunters. It is based on lousy science, as I pointed out in “Oregon cougar plan based on fictions, not facts.” The plan assumes that reported sightings are a valid way of estimating the cougar population, even though people can mistake a kitty cat for a cougar.
No person ever has been attacked by a cougar in Oregon. Maybe somebody will one day. Lots of people have been attacked by dogs. Some have been killed. It makes a lot more sense to start reducing the number of pit bulls than to thin the cougar population.
How would you like it if you were walking your well-behaved pit bull and a government employee came up and said, “Sorry, but I’ve got to shoot your dog. There are too many pit bulls and we’re worried that yours might bite somebody in the future.” The same screwy logic is what flimsily supports the Oregon Cougar Plan.
Financially, the plan is supported by hunter fees. So hunters who aren’t allowed to use dogs to hunt cougars themselves will now get to pay for federal employees to do the hunting. That doesn’t thrill hunters, or the NRA.
Hunters seemingly are supposed to be happy that if there are fewer cougars, there will be more deer and elk for them to kill. That’s dubious.
What isn’t dubious is that cougars kill the weakest prey, while hunters kill the best specimens. Nature knows how to manage deer and elk populations a lot better than government bureaucrats do. Left alone, cougars are an integral part of a predator-prey ecosystem that has worked just fine for many millions of years.
We’ll see how long it takes for the obvious flaws in the Oregon Cougar Plan to become even more evident than they already are. The Predator Defense League is considering leading an initiative effort to ban sporthunting of cougars entirely. I hope they go ahead with this.
When the voters learn that the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has slapped them in the face, I’m pretty sure they’ll respond with their own slapdown at the ballot box.