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Wildlife:
Wildlife - Cougar Hunting

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: HB2971
Sponsor: Rep. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay)
Legislative Session: 2007

HB 2971 allows the state to appoint members of the public as 'agents' to be allowed to use dogs to hunt bears and cougars and bait to attract and shoot bears. These practices were banned for use by the general public and sport hunters by Ballot Measure 18 in 1994 and HB 2971 is the latest in a multiyear effort to weaken or roll back Measure 18's wildlife protections.

Status

After passing the House, this bill was sent to the Senate where it was amended to require background checks and training for the volunter 'agents' and to add a sunset to the program in six years. It passed out of the Senate Environment Committee with 'no recommendation,' but ultimately passed the Senate. Senator Vicki Walker (D-Eugene) and Senator Joanne Verger (D-Coos Bay) made strong floor speeches against this unnecessary bill, and its rollback of the voters' will with regard to hunting practices for Oregon's bears and cougars.

More information

For more information contact Ivan Maluski at 503-238-0442, x304 or ivan.maluski@sierraclub.org

Background

Coming on the heels of Oregon's recently adopted Cougar Management Plan, HB 2971 amounts to a defacto repeal of Measure 18. Under Measure 18, the state already had the authority to track and kill specific problem cougars and bears with hounds and bait, but these practices were not available to hunters or the general public. Under Measure 18 the state was only allowed to target individual problem animals, not to kill large numbers of cougars across the landscape indiscriminantly.

But the ban on hound hunting irked international trophy hunting organizations, the National Rifle Association and the Oregon Hunter's Association, who have tried repeatedly to repeal Measure 18. In response to this pressure, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) dramatically increased the number of cougar hunting licenses available, increased the cougar hunting season to nearly year-round, and significantly reduced the price of a 'cougar tag.' As a result, in 1994 a few hundred trophy hunters were licensed to kill cougars with hounds before Measure 18's ban, but in 2006 over 38,000 people were licensed to kill cougars in Oregon without the use of hounds. This contributed to the fact that in 2006 more cougars were killed in Oregon than any other year on record in modern history, even before the passage of HB 2971 or the implementation of Oregon's new Cougar Management Plan, which calls for killing up to 40% of the state's cougar population.

Also in response to pressure, the ODFW began developing the Oregon Cougar Management Plan, which was adopted in 2006, though widely criticized by cougar biologists and conservation groups for serious scientific flaws and a lack of emphasis on non-lethal efforts to reduce cougar conflicts. The Cougar Management Plan allows the state to kill roughly 40% (up to 2000) of the state's cougars in an effort to bring numbers down to arbitrarily set 1994 levels. The areas where large numbers of cougars would be killed are determined based on 'complaints,' some of them unverified or simply sightings, and the cougars killed would not necessarily be those involved in human/cougar or livestock/cougar conflicts. The Cougar Management Plan contains several flawed assumptions about the current cougar population in Oregon, the value of using 'complaints' as the trigger for killing cougars, and the benefits to the public from killing large numbers of cougars in certain 'target areas.' The plan is also based exclusively on lethal control, not on reducing conflicts through education efforts and non-lethal techniques.

By allowing hunters to become 'agents' of the state specifically to implement the Cougar Management Plan, HB 2971 marks the biggest rollback of Measure 18 since its adoption in 1994. While the amendments added by the Senate may help prevent some abuse of this new law, the Legislature failed to amend this bill to fix very serious problems in the Cougar Management Plan as the Sierra Club and other conservation organizations had suggested.

     
     

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