Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Conservationists attack Oregon's cougar plan

Conservationists attack Oregon's cougar plan

 

Claim it would 'slaughter' 40 percent of population

 Conservation groups believe Oregon's new cougar conservation plan would return the state to indiscriminate killing of the animals.Posted: 4:40 PM, May. 9, 2006

 

By KTVZ.com news sources

 

A coalition of nine conservation organizations, representing over 200,000 Oregon members and constituents, on Tuesday urged Gov. Ted Kulongoski to turn down a plan to kill up to 2,000 cougars in Oregon.

The Oregon Cougar Management Plan is designed to kill up to 40 percent of Oregon cougars, the opponents claim. They said the plan's faulty assumptions about cougar population estimates destroy the plan's scientific credibility and result in killing large numbers of cougars without supportable justification.

 

The plan, which the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission approved last month, is based on an assumption that Oregon's cougar population has increased exponentially since the 1994 voter-led ban on hound hunting. But the foes claim the commission approved the plan despite the lack of scientific support or reliable cougar population estimates.

 

They said biologists and cougar experts maintain the plan is based on an outdated and flawed population model. The current population estimate of a little over 5,000 cougars is extrapolated from a 45-year-old population estimate, they said.

 

Peer reviewers of the plan criticized the poor population modeling and a reliance on public

complaints.

 

Wildlife biologists explain that public complaints are not correlated with trends in cougar populations, or even with the presence of cougars, but instead are related to a number of other factors including an increase in human population, human encroachment into wildlife habitat, and the effects of media coverage.

 

A California study by Dr. Paul Beier, leading expert on cougar-human conflicts, found that

up to 95 percent of all cougar sightings and complaints are due to the misidentification of wildlife species and pets.

 

"Indiscriminately reducing the population is a biologically reckless and scientifically flawed approach for reducing conflicts, yet this is the sole focus of the plan," said Sally Mackler, wildlife coordinator for the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

 

She said experts agree that the most reliable and effective method of minimizing conflict is through education, yet this plan includes no recommendation for public education.

 

Conservationists say the Oregon plan is a disturbing step backwards to the days when cougars and other wildlife were bounty hunted to near extinction.

 

"Using packs of dogs, traps, snares and poisons, agents will indiscriminately kill large numbers of cougars, which is clearly a direct attack on the will of Oregon voters," said Spencer Lennard, wildlife conservationist. "Both Measure 18 and 34 demonstrated that Oregonians want these animals protected, not slaughtered."

 

Current Oregon law allows for killing cougars to protect property and public safety, requiring no permits to kill the offending cougar. It allows property owners to use dogs and bait to remove damage-causing cougars, and anyone threatened by a cougar can legally kill the animal.

 

"Oregon residents and wildlife deserve a better plan, one that is consistent with the voters' wishes, that targets only offending animals, and protects cougar populations," said Kelly Peterson, ballot issues director for The Humane Society of the United States.

 

The HSUS, Sierra Club and the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association were among groups signing the letter to the governor. Others include the Oregon Humane Society, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Siskiyou Project and Umpqua Watersheds.

 

 

http://www.ktvz.com/story.cfm?nav=news&storyID=11134

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