There goes another cougar management myth, the mistaken notion that the more cougars are killed, the fewer livestock are lost, and fewer encounters between cougars and humans occur.
A study conducted by Washington State University's Large Carnivore Conservation Lab brought some welcome facts to counter the often-hysterical kill them! cries from fearful ranchers and homeowners (who frequently mistake a large kitty cat for a cougar).
Here's some quotes from a press release about the study.
Overharvest of cougars can increase negative encounters between the predator and humans, livestock and game, according to a 13-year Washington State University research project. Based on this, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is implementing a new cougar management plan.
Starting in January, Washington will employ equilibrium management – hunters will remove no more than the surplus of animals that would be generated through natural reproduction.
This means that each of the state’s game management units will have a limit allowing for harvest of no more than 14 percent of that area’s cougars. Once the limit is filled, cougar hunting will be suspended for the year in that unit. Hunters will be allowed to take their tags to other units that haven’t reached the limit.
...Data showed that adult males, “toms,” are intolerant of adolescent males and will kill them to maintain their territory and breeding rights. Juvenile males can only survive by avoiding adult males. When hunting removes most adult males, the adolescent males survive and cause all sorts of trouble.
While adult cougars tend to avoid humans and livestock, juveniles are less cautious: “They’re teenagers,” explained Wielgus. “They’re sexually mature, but mentally they’re not all there.”
...Without adult male protection of females and their litters, infanticide becomes a problem, as the young toms kill kits to bring the mother into heat and improve their breeding chances. The females try to protect their litters by moving higher in elevation, away from dangerous adolescent males, but also away from plentiful whitetail deer and into terrain occupied by less abundant prey such as mule deer, bighorn sheep and woodland caribou. Thus marginal game populations suffer.
Congratulations to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for changing its cougar management plan after learning about this research.
Oregon needs to do the same. As I've noted for quite a few years, the Oregon cougar plan is based on fictions, not facts.
Killing fewer cougars will mean fewer livestock losses, and less encounters of cougars with humans. That's now a fact, based on WSU's thirteen year study. Time to get rid of the fictions, Oregon Department of FIsh and Wildlife.