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Capital Press

SALEM -- Seventeen years after Oregon voters restricted the use of dogs to hunt cougars, the limitations are being tested in the Oregon Legislature.

In a hearing March 7 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, opponents of three bills to ease the restrictions said they fly in the face of voter intent and should be shot down.

Supporters, however, said circumstances have changed in Oregon since voters approved the restrictions.

Oregon's cougar population has more than doubled over the last 17 years, they said, increasing from between 2,000 and 3,000 in 1994 to upwards of 6,000 today.

Cougars threaten human safety, are decimating deer and elk populations and are killing livestock, bill supporters said.

"At some point, there is going to be some serious human injury, if not death," said Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, who backs the bills.

"We need to deal with this now before it is a bigger problem," he said.

House Bill 3428 creates a pilot program allowing use of dogs in certain areas of the state. HB3326 allows the use of dogs to hunt cougars during the final three months of cougar hunting season in certain zones if harvest quotas have not been met. HB2337 provides counties with the authority to allow use of dogs.

Oregon Farm Bureau Government Affairs Director Katie Fast said her in-laws have lost five calves to cougars in recent years.

"This is not an issue that is a remote rural issue," Fast said, noting her in-laws live within 20 miles of Salem.

Speaking for the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, lobbyist Jim Welsh said Oregon ranchers annually lose significant numbers of livestock to cougar depredation.

"We believe these bills would provide a tool to help bring (cougar) populations to controllable numbers," he said.

Scott Beckstead, Oregon director of the Humane Society of the U.S., challenged the contention that cougar numbers are out of control.

"You cannot use flawed data to justify overturning the will of the voters," Beckstead said.

Ivan Maluski, conservation coordinator for the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club, said Oregon law already gives the state authority to deputize agents to use dogs to hunt cougars. The bills, he said, are not needed to control problem cougars.

The state in 2006 set a minimum cougar population target of 3,000 to ensure cougar management measures weren't driving the population to extinction.

Supporters said that in addition to improving human safety and reducing big game and livestock losses, the bills will save the state money.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spends approximately $100,000 on cougar management, ODFW officials testified.

Hunters are restricted to taking 777 cougars statewide, according to ODFW regulations.

All Other Big Game / Senate passes extension of cougar hunting program
« on: March 08, 2011, 11:07:18 AM »
Monday, Mar. 07, 2011
Senate passes extension of cougar hunting program
The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. The Washington Senate approved another extension of a long-standing pilot program that allows the hunting of cougars with dogs in certain parts of the state.

The Senate approved the measure 37-1. It will expand for another five years a pilot program created in 2004 that allowed some of these hunts to take place in some counties in eastern Washington.

The pilot program has been extended twice so far.

In 1996, Washington voters approved an initiative that banned such hunts.

Supporters say that hunts keep the cougar population in control, while opponents say that using hounds is cruel to cougars.

The measure now heads to the House for further consideration

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