Thursday, December 04, 2008

Group urges Montana to end cougar hunting, hounding

Group urges FWP to end cougar hunting, hounding

Posted on Dec. 3
By VINCE DEVLIN of the Missoulian

Does the hunting of mountain lions increase the number of conflicts the animals have with humans?

Citing a Washington State University study that says it may, Big Wildlife, an international wildlife protection organization, says it has formally petitioned Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the FWP Commission to ban the hunting and hounding of cougars in Montana.

While the agency has seen Big Wildlife’s press release, FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim said Wednesday it has not yet received a formal petition asking the commission to consider a ban on cougar hunting.

Any such request, Aasheim added, would be deferred to the season-setting process, which begins in the fall and is formalized in February.

“It’s a very public process,” Aasheim said, “that would include public input. The commission and department would take it under consideration, and the commission decides if it wants to enact any changes.”

Big Wildlife spokesman Brian Vincent said Wednesday the organization has made similar requests in Washington and Oregon.

“The reason we’re involved is because of a pretty critical report released recently by Washington State University that says cougar populations are struggling, due to liberalized hunting and aggressive lethal control,” Vincent said.

That study, by Robert Wielgus, director of WSU’s Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory, found that killing large numbers of cougars creates social chaos among the species.

Hunters often target adult males, which act as a stabilizing force in cougar populations, Wielgus told the Seattle Times. The adults police large territories and drive out or kill young males.

With the adults gone, the “young hooligans” run wild, according to Wielgus.

Most cougar conflicts with humans turn out to be cats under the age of 2, who are just learning to live on their own.

Big Wildlife also called mountain lions a “keystone species” that helps sustain ecological integrity and preserve species diversity by contributing to the regulation of deer, elk and other animal populations.

For more information, read Thursday's Missoulian or go to Missoulian.com.

http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2008/12/03/bnews/br27.txt

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

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