MEDFORD, Ore. -- A state wildlife agent trapped and shot two young cougars in Jackson County, the first of two dozen to be killed in that part of the state in a study of whether reducing populations of the animals improves public safety and reduces the loss of livestock.
Nine cougars have already been killed in north-central Oregon as part of the study, state figures show.
In Southern Oregon, the "administrative removal" plan aims to reduce up to 20 percent of cougars in a 963-square-mile area and then determine what effect the lower population has on livestock, big game, and humans and their pets.
Dan Jenkins of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife trapped the cougars on a ranch Tuesday and shot them, said Mark Vargas, a department wildlife biologist.
Vargas said the animals were "sub-adults," one male, one female.
Steve Denney, the department's southwest regional supervisor, said Jenkins will continue working half-time to trap cougars in the study area until all 24 are killed.
A critic said the killing is more a way of trying to allay human fears of cougars than a scientific study.
Sally Mackler, wildlife chair of the Sierra Club chapter of Oregon, said randomly targeting cougars could exacerbate conflicts by helping create short-term spikes in the numbers of young cougars, which statistically are responsible for more livestock and pet losses.
"It just confirms my concerns regarding the plan," Mackler said. "We have embarked on indiscriminate killing of cougars in this state."
Two other areas in Oregon are in the study, part of a cougar management plan adopted in April by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
One is 1,000 square miles in Malheur County, where a maximum of 12 cougars are to be killed, although none have so far, according to department statistics. The other is 1,189 square miles near Heppner in north-central Oregon, where the statistics show that nine out of as many as 30 cougars have been killed.