PORTLAND, Oregon – Yesterday, in an effort led by the Humane Society of the United States, wildlife biologists, including Jane Goodall, joined conservation and animal protection groups in sending letters to Oregon state legislators and state officials decrying a volley of bills intending to overturn Measure 18, the 1994 ballot initiative that abolished the hound hunting of cougars. Most Oregonians agree pursuing cougars with hounds is not “fair chase” hunting. In January, the Humane Society of the United States commissioned a poll by Remington Research Group that showed 65 percent of Oregon’s voters oppose the trophy hunting of cougars.
“Oregonians value and appreciate wildlife,” said Kelly Peterson, Oregon senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Cougars are essential for keeping our ecosystems in balance, including our deer and elk herds. Additional trophy hunts of cougars with hounds will not reduce cougar-human conflicts—it will increase conflicts with pets, livestock and people. What native carnivores like cougars require is humane coexistence.”
The letters are addressed to Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-District 23, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, and to Rep. Brad Witt, D-District 31, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The signers state that, “efforts to allow hound hunting of cougars is harmful to cougars and hounds, also detrimental to other wildlife and entire ecosystems as well as to the majority of Oregonians who voted to prohibit hound hunting.”
The Humane Society of the United States partnered with Professor Rob Wielgus, Ph.D., on the correspondence. Dr. Wielgus, the now-retired director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, has been the cougar-research partner with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for the past 20 years. Dr. Wielgus stated:
“The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has systematically overestimated and overstated how many cougars live in Oregon—at levels I’ve not seen anywhere around the world. As a result, the state’s hunting quotas are far beyond what Oregon’s cougars can endure. All indications are that Oregon is already severely overkilling cougars and that any additional hunting mortality will result in eventual population collapse.”
Trophy hunting of cougar leads to greater human conflicts, as Wielgus’ multiple studies have shown. He explains: “High levels of hunting mortality result in removal of the older, resident cougars. Numerous young immigrant cougars, from distant locations, take over the residents’ former territories, and that results in increased cougar-human conflicts and the perception that the overall cougar population is increasing. These results from overhunting cougars have been repeatedly demonstrated in Washington State.”