Thursday, March 15, 2007

Group of Oregon ranchers and farmers oppose cougar killings

By NEWS 10's Karoline Wightman
An increase in human contact with cougars is prompting the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to take lethal measures.

But some local farmers and ranchers are opposed to the trapping and killing of cougars.

Michael Moss ia rancher outside Jacksonville.

He and a group of local farmers…along with some faith based group and conservationists have started a coalition called Big Wildlife.

They’re opposed to O-D-F-W’s plan for killing cougars.

“As a rancher I’m really worried about this because killing cougars indiscriminately can actually exacerbate the human cougar conflict problem cougars way out in the wild are doing their job their eating deer and whatnot."

In Jackson County, three cougars were mistakenly killed outside O-D-F-W’s designated area. Steve Denney of Oregon Fish and Wildlife says they are working to avoid another problem.

"We've taken several steps to try to alleviate that we've taken all the traps outside of that particular area and we're going over that area with our gis maps."

The Big Wildlife group also opposes House Bill 2971, which, if passed, could allow hunters to kill cougars as agents for O-D-F-W.

Instead, the group says people need to learn how to live with predators, because killing them has a negative impact on the ecosystem.

Moss says, thre are other ways to decrease human cougar contact…

"Something as simple as having you pets and pet food inside at night that will lead to a decrease in human and cougars far more than indiscriminate killing of cougars."

The O-D-F-W agrees, but Denney says that’s not always enough…

"Conflicts do occur with large predators whether it's cougars, bears, wolves and our job is to reduce the conflict so there's no one method to do it we use a variety of methods that we use."

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says, it’s too early to determine what affect the recent cougar killings will have.

The Big Wildlife group says it’s planning a series of educational forums to get the word out to the community in hopes of stopping the cougar killings.

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