Oregon's war on wildlife

By Brian Vincent of Williams, Oregon. Brian is the Communications Director with Big Wildlife.

The slaughter of cougars, wolves, coyotes, and other carnivores, has been common in North America since colonists arrived nearly four centuries ago. Today, the war on carnivores continues. The U.S government alone kills over three million animals, including 100,000 carnivores. Animals are poisoned, trapped, snared, beheaded, clubbed, shot from the air, and gassed in their dens.

State agencies, including the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and private interests are in the extermination business too. In Oregon, entire bear families are wiped out simply because the animals peel bark off a few trees on corporate timberland. Most recently, Governor Ted Kulongoski launched his Cougar Management Plan, which calls for expansive, indiscriminate killing of the big cats, and he reinstated the barbaric practice of chasing cougars with hounds. Soon, nearly 2,000 cougars may be killed across the state.

Sustained lethal control, along with trophy hunting of some of these species, has had a devastating impact on the environmental health of the planet. Biologists have found many large native carnivores are "keystone species," and play a pivotal role in maintaining ecological integrity and preserving biological diversity. The disappearance of these species triggers the loss of other local species, and the intricate connections among the remaining residents begin to unravel. Species losses cascade and multiply throughout the ecosystem in a "domino effect." And, as noted in a recent front page Seattle Times article, aggressive predator "control" of a species like cougars can cause chaos for the animals by dramatically altering a species' social structure and behavior, as well as create more conflicts with humans.

Big Wildlife, a wildlife protection organization formed in 2006, is leading the charge to save mid and top-level carnivores. We are dedicated to halting these inhumane and horrific government lethal "control" programs. To help educate the public about threats facing these species, Big Wildlife is launching a "War on Wildlife" lecture series throughout the Northwest. Our presentation features stunning visuals of wildlife, as well as shocking images of carnivore "control" programs. If you would like us to speak in your community at your church, community organization, business, and even house parties, email us at [email protected]

We will be launching our lecture series at Lewis and Clark Law School on April 2. See details about the Lewis and Clark event on the jump. For more information, visit our website at www.bigwildlife.org

BIG WILDLIFE TO GIVE "THE WAR ON WILDLIFE" PRESENTATION AT LEWIS AND CLARK

WHAT: "The War on Wildlife" presentation by Brian Vincent, Communications Director, Big Wildlife. Mr. Vincent will discuss government programs aimed at killing carnivores. In addition, he will talk at length about Oregon's Cougar Management Plan. The event is open to the public.

WHEN: Noon, Wednesday, April 2

WHERE: Lewis and Clark Law School Room 5, 10015 SW Terwilliger Blvd., Portland

CONTACTS: Liz Crosson at [email protected]

SPONSORS: Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Student Animal Legal Defense Fund

Comments

  • Jamie (unverified)
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    "Governor Ted Kulongoski launched his Cougar Management Plan, which calls for expansive, indiscriminate killing of the big cats, and he reinstated the barbaric practice of chasing cougars with hounds. Soon, nearly 2,000 cougars may be killed across the state." Maybe I'm naive, but I'm shocked and appalled to here that my state Governor, a man who I, along with countless other environmentalists gave money to, would create such a plan. As democrats who voted him in, I think we all need to let our Gov. know that his plan is unacceptable.

  • Janet Reno (unverified)
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    [Off-topic ranting by someone who isn't Janet Reno deleted. -editor.]

  • steventomhom (unverified)
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    that the Forest. names. Years later, wasn't at to it personalities. black just their

  • housekitchen (unverified)
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    pruning think will never having about on me. in a hollow the dead And grapes, We used

  • anon (unverified)
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    Can we get these computerized comments deleted please?

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Now, as for the second comment on topic (please delete the garbage above this post except the first one!) --

    When I was younger, management of animal resources was called, "wildlife management" of all things. It involved a scientific exercise in which efforts were made to measure the carrying capacity of animal ranges in terms of food sources (which vary from year to year), predation (the natural taking of animals by other animals as food), and the effects upon any given animal population of disease. Wildlife managers found that over population would bring over grazing and over use of the food source, which would then diminish the carrying capacity of the range, and would lead to disease and starvation. Left to "nature" (which really doesn't exist and never did in the pure form due to lots of reasons, mainly human), wildlife populations have a bell shaped curve, peaking and crashing in various long and short term cycles. Due to the increasing use of humans of our environment, roads, cities, etc. with less range, we risk eliminations of various animal populations in various range areas during the crash parts of the cycle. Therefore, to "manage" this risk, it is important to "manage" the peak of the cycles, and eliminate over population prior to crashing the system.

    -- That was the theory in the 1950's and 1960's.

    Since then this entire scientific field has been made political. Morality of a sort has entered into the field, and some view management of population (to save it I might add) as immoral as it involves killing animals.

    Well, I know I'm going against the tide here on Blue Oregon, as often I do as a rural Democrat, but the tone and content of this post is by my way of thinking part of the problem, and not part of the solution.

    Due to the Cougar and Bear hunting laws passed last decade, we now have an over population of cougars in particular that I am well aware of as they have been in my neighborhood, have been at my local grade school, have stalked children, and in one case one was shot by a younger person while on a family deer hunting trip when it was in the act of jumping on her. If left unchecked, the Cougar population will do even more harm to populations of deer and other animals. I have a friend that lives on Lofton Creek north of Prineville at the edge of the Ochoco National forest. He has lost two dogs in his front yard to Cougars. There is a ridge line near his house that is littered with deer bones from Cougar kills.

    Due to political interference with wildlife management practices, we now have a population that is out of control, and wrecking havoc in other wildlife populations.

    And we have a "moral" call to protect this over instance of over-population.

    As a rural person who is a degree closer to this than some of my urban friends, I have to say that not only are those that call for protecting Cougars from being hunted off base, they are working against the species they want to protect.

    If over predation continues, there will be a crash in the population of the hunted species, resulting in starvation, disease, and death for the predators. Not today, not this year, probably not next year, but as predicable as ocean tides and the cycle of the moon, the Cougar population will suffer horribly if the political/moral interference is allowed to continue.

    Sometimes, not taking an action is a decision with worse consequences than the decision to take an action.

  • Brian Vincent (unverified)
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    Steve, I respectfully disagree with your assumption that there are ever increasing numbers of cougars in Oregon. In fact, a number of recent studies, including one by Washington State University's Carnivore Conservation Laboratory concludes that cougar populations in the Pacific Northwest are plummeting (go to: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004285453_cougar16m.html)

    The WSU study also found that aggressive "management" (i.e. killing) of cougars actually increases conflicts with the big cats. And just because you may see more cougars today doesn't mean there are more cougars. It means that humans are encroaching further into cougar habitat. And it means many people are creating situations that lure cougars into communities (e.g. leaving pet food out at night, not properly securing garbage, ranchers who don't pen their animals and who leave animal carcasses out in pastures).

    The actions the ODFW is taking are creating more problems, not less. The major reason the ODFW is promoting more killing of cougars has nothing to do with preventing conflicts. It has to do with accommodating trophy hunters who are still whining about Measure 18 that banned hounding of cougars and bears.

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    I noticed that the US Department of Fish and Wildlife has de-listed protection of wolves in most of the mountain west, meaning that in Wyoming they can be shot on sight for any reason whatsoever, and that DFW has okayed the slaughter of up to half of the largest remaining herd of Bison in the world. The reason? Both pose a potential threat to livestock.

    Is the cougar kill being conducted for similar reasons?

    I don't buy the unsubstantiated assertion that there is a surge in cougar populations in the northwest.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    I note that you do not take issue with the "theory" of wildlife management. You do not take issue with the need to work at balancing population control against the resources available to that population.

    The "details" involve how many Cougars are in what range. The entire State of Oregon is not a "range". At the least we could talk about the Pacific coast, the Willamette Valley, the Cascades, Southern Oregon, Central Oregon, and Eastern Oregon as specific areas where we could look at the Cougars and other related groups of animals. Next we need to look at the methodology of counting. Prior to the changes in the laws regarding hunting in the 1990's, part of the count was the harvest of animals in the process of hunting. Now that is not as well established.

    Frankly, in the "range" where I live, Cougar population by all accounts appears to be up, Deer and young Elk predation appears to be up, and we appear to be headed into a problem.

    But if I am entirely wrong about the current populations in the Central Oregon "range" where I live, my points still stand. If you take away the tools of wildlife management for political or "moral" reasons, you ultimately will doom the wildlife population you would seek to protect. Sooner or later the population will increase, over graze, and then fall to starvation and disease. Only by having access to tools that include population control can you prevent a population crash. Literally, that is the "nature" of wildlife systems both affected by and unaffected by human encroachment into the "range".

    To put it in the most simple terms - you adovacate a path that will always result in the mass die off and possible extinction in a given geographic area of a specific animal population. You can literally love your Cougars to death.

  • Brian Vincent (unverified)
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    Steve-

    I would urge you to read the Wielgus study that is featured in the Seattle Times piece. Dr. Wielgus' team found that cougar populations throughout the Northwest were declining. Why? They concluded that aggressive lethal control and liberlized hunting had hit cougar populations hard and that the expansive killing of cougars was creating social structure chaos within the remaining populations.

    In other words, the very kind of "management" Oregon is now employing is and will continue to contribute to the rapid decline of the overall population in the state. Oregon is taking the exact wrong approach to cougar management.

    If you are so confident with the ODFW's cougar population data and their cougar management plan, why then has the agency repeatedly refused to submit their plan to independent peer review? Why is their cougar population data largely based on sightings and complaints - both notoriously unreliable barometers for determining cougar numbers because most cougar "sightings" are actually cases of mistaken identity. The ODFW does not often verify complaints so using complaint data is not credible.

    Big Wildlife is simply asking the ODFW to halt its cougar plan and place a moratorium on cougar hunting until their data, plan, and hunting programs are reviewed by an independent body of scientists to determine if they are biologically sound. Would you argue with that approach? If not, why not let the ODFW's plan undergo scrutiny by reputable cougar biologists?

    Simply put, we are not "taking away management tools." We only want to ensure the tools the ODFW is using are scientifically sound. And all the recent studies out there strongly suggest the ODFW is going in the wrong direction.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    I read the article and also heard the interview of the biologist on Lar's show last week or the week before. The article and the biologist don't say that there should be no hunting of cougar, but that the indiscriminate hunting of cougar made possible by the 'boot' tags is one of the problems. In the the newspaper article, at the end, is says that in Cle Elum "Boot hunters shot 14 animals, including several females and kittens. Among the casualties was a mature tom, whose territory included the sprawling new Suncadia Resort, with its golf course, condominiums and elegant lodge. A young male has moved into the area."

    This is exactly the problem that the biologist was trying to point out in the interview I listened to. I can't speak to Washington State's specific hunting laws and situation regarding the cougar population's interaction with the human population, but it's probably similar. Here in Oregon when hound hunting of cougar was outlawed by the voters, ODFW began issuing an unlimited number of cougar tags and I believe they lowered the price of the tag. My boyfriend buys a Sport Pack hunting package from ODFW every year because it includes tags and licenses for a wide range of game from upland birds to bears and is less expensive than buying all the tags and licenses separately. I believe it comes with a cougar tag. If he were to see a cougar in the woods when he was deer or elk hunting he would probably shoot it just because he has a tag and he believes that the cougar population is too dense, deer and elk season being at the end of the year he wouldn't have to worry about the cougar being a lactating female, which I believe it is still forbidden to take. The problem with all of this is that not only have the number of tags sold increased - good for ODFW's revenue bottome line, but the take of cougar has become less discriminate. One of the things the biologist pointed out in the interview was that when you allow hunting of cougar with hounds, once the animal is treed it's possible to take a look at it to determine whether it's a female, an older male who's probably established in the territory, or a young animal or kitten, and yes, you can tell the difference visually even up a tree with a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. An experienced hunter or guide should be able to tell even if they can't see under the cat's tail. With this type of hunting you can take an appropriate animal, if you can find it, and release an animal that is inappropriate to take. With 'boot' hunting, you don't know what you shot until you shoot it, and if it's not a animal that's appropriate to kill, then you're too late.

    A couple of other things that weren't pointed out in the article, or the interview, were that when hunting of cougar is predominantly done with hounds it trains the cougar to be leary of humans and it effectively reduces the number of cats taken through limiting the number of tags as well as making it more difficult to find the cats in the first place. The hounds scare the cougar and they become more difficult to find without hounds in a given area where that type of hunting is commonly done. If the cats are leary of humans they are more difficult to find because they are more likely to stay hidden when humans are around and therefore less likely to be seen. The cats will still be around, but in general, a cat is going to know about you well before you would know of its presence. When it becomes more difficult for a hunter to find a cat, they are more likely to hire a guide with hounds or will keep, train and maintain hounds themselves. Most hunters don't have the money to hunt this way, and so the cost of hunting helps to limit the number of hunters and therefore the number of cats taken. Keeping, training and maintaining these hounds is very expensive and labor intensive. Well trained hounds are very valuable.

    When the voters of Oregon decided to make hunting with hounds illegal, they effectively took away one of the few tools ODFW had to effectively control the cougar population in a targeted way, and they took away the only tool we had to effectively discourage cougar from eventually seeing us and our animals as a food source. While ODFW still uses hounds to assist their biologists and state hunters in cougar management, they have neither the financial or manpower resources to control the cougar population as effectively or in as targeted a manner as sport hunters using hounds can.

    I've been around both large and small wild cats in captivity, and have done a lot of reading on them in the wild, especially regarding their behavior. One thing is certain, especially with those in the wild, as far as they are concerned, you are either food, competition for food/territory, or something interesting to watch. I don't mind being competition for food/territory as long as the cat believes it's more trouble than it's worth to tangle with me, but I deffinately don't want them seeing me or my livestock as food, and I'm not particularly interested in being an attractive object of their attention for any other reason either unless it's to determine where I am so they can go the other way. If they aren't fearful of me and the animals associated with me, then I and they are food. And on the other hand, I don't want humans to not be fearful of a wild cougar, or even one in captivity. That type of fear is healthy, it's one of the things that can help keep a person off the dinner plate.

    It doesn't make the cat evil or good, it just makes them what they are, a super predator, just like humans. I find it interesting that, while many urban areas prohibit the keeping of cougar within their jurisdictions at the request of the residents because they are dangerous animals, those same residents apparently have no problem with the cats living in close proximity to those of us in the rural areas and they don't think we should be able to protect ourselves with things like killing a problem animal or hazing with dogs. Personally I have no problem with a cat living in my area as long as it leaves me and my animals alone. One of the best ways to ensure that is the targeted population and behavioral management of the cougar population.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Joanne - well said (well written anyway).

    I find the Wielgus study too broad in its "range", talking about the entire NW. But again, as Joanne has written, the limitations on hunting cougars is a large problem.

    Frankly, some people think that if you engage in population control, and the animal's head ends up on the wall, it's a problem. I don't share that view. If someone wants to put the head on the wall, so what? The goal is population control.

    In my first post, I noted several local incidents of Cougar problems. There are many others I didn't mention. I for one note that we have "missing hikers" each year here in Oregon, that we never find and don't know what happens to them. Cougars? Don't know, but let's just say based upon other reports, I think perhaps a few hikers became food. This is a real problem, and simply siting one broad based claim of a lowering population in a several State region doesn't take away from the problem.

    I do agree with one thing - I think that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife should throw open all of its books, studies, research, etc. to anyone who wants to look at them. There should be no secrets. - Opps, under Oregon law, that can happen anyway.

    This formulation or theory of government secrets, hidden information, deliberate harm to a species of animals, etc. that is thrown at the ODFW is tiresome. There is no grand conspiracy, anyone can get the ODFW information anytime. I for one, when I served on the Crook County Planning Commission, got way more information than I ever wanted or could use on wildlife habitats, migration routes, animal census data, etc. It's there, all you have to do is ask for it.

    So Brian, you've essentially made the claim that there is a government conspiracy to harm the Cougar population of Oregon.

    Prove it.

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    Since when does government caving in to ranchers who want to protect their cattle, or hunters who want to get some trophy kills constitute a conspiracy?

    Brian's point, so far as I can tell, is that science, not anecdotal claims nor special interest politics, should be driving the management of Oregon wildlife.

  • john palmer (unverified)
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    Hey I'm not sure if history will help out in this debate but heres a shot any way. Look up the history of Isle Royale (longest running mammal reserch project in the world), and the circle of evolution in a UN biosphere. Due to the fact that we know longer have the abilty to not get involved with wild life management the real question is how do we accomplish the job of playing mother nature. Oh and I've only lived in OR for five years but I have averaged over 1000 miles a year on the trail for the last ten years in many different national parks across the U and I have never seen cougar sign like I have in OR. OS because it allways boils down to this I would like to acknowelge i CAN;T SPELL AND MY pUNCTIATION IS HORRIBLE SO NO NEED TO POINT IT OUT AND FOR THE SAKE OF THOSE WHO TALK OF TROPHY HUNTERS WELL THER REOUT THERE BUT i NOT ONE OF THEM i EVEN VOLUNTEERED AT A WOLF RESCUE RANCH WITH NO ELECTERICITY LIVED THERE AND M ADE NO MONEY TO DRIVE MY OIL GUSSSILER ( MY FEET) any way I'm done ranting oh and who pays for a lot of ODVA ACTIVITIES.

  • Brian Vincent (unverified)
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    Steve-

    I'm afraid you may have missed my point. So, let me try again.

    I never said, nor implied, there was some grand conspiracy by the ODFW. I said that many recent studies, which have been published in peer reviewed wildlife journals, contradict the data, objectives, findings, and conclusions in the ODFW's cougar management plan. Big Wildlife, along with a host of wildlife conservation groups, has asked the ODFW to submit their cougar plan for peer review. The ODFW has refused? Why? Because the state's cougar plan can not stand up to scientific, objective scrutiny.

    For example, the ODFW bases its cougar population data on removal (hunting) numbers, sightings, and complaints. As I noted previously, these are notoriously unreliable barometers for determining cougar population numbers. Other methods are far more effective for measuring cougar populations: DNA scat analysis, track analysis, telemetry, and hair analysis. Other states use these non-lethal methods to determine cougar, bear, wolf, and other large mammal populations. Why doesn't Oregon?

    Secondly, the state's cougar management plan flies in the face of recent studies that have found that aggressive lethal control and expansive hunting of cougars have decreased cougar populations in the region and increased conflicts. Why the increase in conflicts? Because large, resident, adult males, often the most prized by hunters, keep younger, potentially more assertive cougars, in check.

    Big Wildlife is simply asking the ODFW to let its plan be objectively scrutinized by a team of reputable, independent cougar biologists to assess the state plan's credibility.

    On a final note, the Oregon cougar plan largely ignores the ecological value cougars play in ecosystems. Like other top carnivores, cougars help maintain a balance in natural systems by regulating prey species. As many studies have found, the removal of top carnivores from ecosystems leads to a cascade of species loss and ecosystem simplification. For example, when wolves were eliminated from Yellowstone sixty years ago, elk populations exploded. In addition, elk herd behavior changed dramatically. No longer fearing wolves, elk herds grew in number and loafed in meadows and along streams. And elk chowed down on aspen seedlings, leading to a decline in aspen forests. When wolves were restored to Yellowstone, guess what? Elk populations were restored to normal carrying capacities for the ecosystem. Aspen forests began to recover. The Yellowstone ecosystem's balance was restored.

  • Chuck Paugh (unverified)
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    One would think that we had a Republican Party controlled state legislature and Republican governor given the latest wildlife management policies in our state -- ranging from the treatment of bears to cougars to sea lions.

    Let's face it, the problem isn't an over population of these animal species. The problem is the unnatural number of humans that are systematically moving to Oregon because of our wildlife and natural resources to escape urban sprawl, encroaching on the habitats of these wild animals, then demanding that we kill these natural creatures because fluffy the poodle might get eaten.

    While there are some economic benefits to the influx of new people moving into Oregon at the moment, the reality is that very little is being studied or done to prevent their presence from impacting our state's environment. I say we go back to the old Oregon tourist slogan of, "Oregon: A nice place to visit, but PLEASE don't stay," and start DENYING building permits for these mega housing developments and highrise condos around the state.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Brian - you keep repeating your points, but offer no proof. What recent peer reviewed studies are you talking about?

    Chuck Paugh's argument as noted above (urban sprawl is degrading wildlife habitat) is often stated and often repeated.

    However, it just isn’t true.

    Oregon has had a system of land use regulations in force Statewide since 1978 that protect rural lands. The effect of these laws is that our urban areas are absorbing the vast majority of the population increase of our State. Roughly 97% of Oregon is zoned for farm or forest use.

    By way of example, I look at my own County. In 1990 the population of Crook County was roughly 11,000. It is now about 25,000 – which may not seem like much, but we are still counted as the fastest growing County in the State. Where are these people?

    Well, we have one City – Prineville. It’s population has gone from about 5,600 in 1990 to about 10,000 now. The urban growth boundary was expanded to include an area that already was already in residential use once during this period. We do have new subdivisions planned that will take up about 1 square mile of area that one could think of as previously rural. There has also been “island” annexation that increased the size of the area within the City boundaries, but didn’t actually increase the size of the city.

    The rest of the population growth has happened mainly in the Juniper Canyon area, and secondarily in Powell Butte. In Juniper Canyon, there were numerous large subdivisions with a 2 acre minimum lot size. In about 1998 the minimum lot size was increased to 5 acres. There has been both an in-filling of homes in the existing subdivisions, and new subdivisions in this area. The population of Juniper Canyon is now about 5,000, up from about 2,000. That is a “large” increase, but Juniper Canyon includes about 36 square miles. So, the population is up from about 55 people per square mile to 138 people. Powell Butte has seen an in-filling of existing subdivisions, and then the development of destination resorts. The rest of the population growth is mainly north to northwest of the City of Prineville, in the irrigated valley area.

    So, what do we really have here? We have the City growth impacting about 1 square mile of additional land. We have 36 square miles where the population density has gone up. We have another about 10 square miles including the destination resort in Powell Butte and the area north to northwest of Prineville that have seen some population growth. So, that is about 47 square miles, but really only one of which has any notable density. And how large is Crook County? Roughly 3,000 square miles. Overall, we have gone from a population density of about 3.67 people per square mile in 1990 to about 8.33 people per square mile today. We have lost .03% of our natural habitat due to urban expansion, and have degraded about 1.53% of our land with increased human population density. However, that is somewhat misleading. Those suburban areas in Juniper Canyon and Powell Butte where we now see more human population is also where we see more surface water. Landscaping has increased the vegetation from dry high desert Juniper and sage brush to vegetation that is more edible for some species such as Deer, Elk, Antelope, rabbits, etc. In some ways, that 46 square mile area with somewhat more population density has brought with it more edible food for the wildlife (try growing a rose around here, the Deer think its candy!). Also, 2 to 5 acre parcel sizes is not particular dense, and there is plenty of room for wildlife there. In fact, they are there, and I see them all the time.

    In any case this horrible problem that Chuck Paugh passes on as if it is the gospel truth, well, it just isn’t so. Oregon has about 90,000 square miles of land. The vast majority of that land is completely untouched by population growth. Half of Oregon is owned by the Federal Government, and has almost no development.

    Just where is this encroachment of habitat? And by the way Chuck, while we don't have a single condo in Crook County, by your way of thinking that urban sprawl is degrading the natural environment, the high urban density of a condo project would in fact be the solution not the problem.

    Now don't get me wrong on this. Those of us who have lived here awhile do not like the population increase at all. We'd rather that this area retain low population and continue the small town / rural feel we have. But that's not on point in this discussion. The population increase we've had just isn't degrading wildlife habitat.

  • Marion (unverified)
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    Steve-

    Why do you refuse to answer Brian's question? So, I'll ask it, "Would you support having the ODFW submit their cougar management plan to independent peer review? If not, why not?"

    And he has sited the Lambert study mentioned in the Seattle Times article. Other studies you might want to look at include:

    "Cougar Predation Key To Ecosystem Health", Science Daily, Oct. 25, 2006

    "The Importance of Large Carnivores to Healthy Ecosystems", Miller, Brian et al. Endangered Species Update, Vol. 18, No. 5, 2001

    "Learning to live with mountain lions", Hornocker, M. 1992.

    "Proceedings of the Eighth Mountain Lion Workshop, Olympia, Washington", Beausoleil, R.A. and D.A. Martorello. 2005. Editors. 2005.

    Cougar Management Guidelines Working Group. 2005. Cougar Management Guidelines. First Edition. WildFutures, Bainbridge, WA.

    These studies all conclude that top predators like cougars play a critical role in maintaining ecosystems, especially in terms of regulating herbivore populations and behavior, as well as regulating mesocarnivores. Many of these studies specific to cougars conclude the following:

    "Sport hunting is occasionally proposed as a tool to reduce the risk that cougars will attack humans. There is no scientific evidence that sport hunting achieves this goal. In rare cases where a cougar exhibits dangerous behavior and needs to be removed, this job is best done by a professional to expeditiously track and kill the individual cougar, rather than via sport hunting.” Dr. Maurice Hornocker, the dean of cougar biology.

    “Short-term, non-selective cougar population reduction [as occurs via sport hunting] has not been demonstrated to reduce depredation” on domestic animals. -Ibid

    In addition, "sport hunting does not select for problem lions (most lions are hunted in wild areas far from humans." -- Ecologist Paul Beier

    "Sport hunting may be exacerbating the likelihood of attacks by removing those lions that are more wary of people – and thus quicker to climb trees when pursued – thereby skewing the population towards those more aggressive lions that are also more likely to attack humans.” -- Dr. Hornocker

    "Sport hunters tend to seek out larger and older cougars as trophies, which increases the proportion of younger lions that are more frequently implicated in attacks than adults." - Dr. Beier

    "Sport hunting of resident cougars that have not preyed on domestic animals opens up habitat for other lions which may be more likely to prey on domestic animals."

    *An increase in cougar attacks on humans in several western states during the 1990s occurred at the same time that the number of mountain lions killed by humans was reaching record levels.

    *Since California banned trophy hunting of cougars in 1971, it has had relatively fewer cougar attacks on humans per capita and per amount of suitable habitat than a number of states with hunting. Even though California has the largest human population, the largest amount of cougar habitat, and the most farm and ranch animals of any western state, fewer cougars are killed by humans in California each year than in any other state. In the last decade, about 120 cougars were killed annually in California, allegedly for preying on domestic animals[7], while more than 400 cougars were killed annually in each of the states of Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Utah, primarily by hunters. -- Beausoleil, R.A. and D.A. Martorello.

    *Vancouver Island [which allows hound-hunting] has the heaviest reported harvest of cougars in North America, [but it] has a far higher rate of cougar attacks on humans than any other geographic area.

    "Cougars are not concentrated in human settlements. “Arguments for decreasing mountain lion density often focus on scenarios of lions lurking near human homes and settlements. Because few cougars are more than 1 home range width from some sort of human settlement, this argument may be nothing more than a rhetorical devise to promote regional hunting. Sport hunting of cougars near the densest human settlements is difficult because houndsmen are reluctant to hunt these areas (due to risk that dogs will be killed on paved roads), and private landowners or local laws often prohibit hunting. Furthermore, although cougar attacks do occur close to human settlements, they do not seem to be concentrated there.” -- Cougar Management Guidelines

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    Steve Buckstein is right, the majority of developement is occurring in areas that are already occupied by people, not so much in national forest, generally not in lands owned by private timber companies, not in national parks like Yellowstone, etc.. Density is increasing in the human population of these lands - those already settled, not expansion.

    If there is no hunting of cougar at all, then the only control on population will be the species ability to enlarge it's range, as is being seen now with the expansion of wolves into areas that they were previously erradicated from, availability of food be it tratidional prey species or other more plentiful species in - for the cats - new areas, such as livestock, pets and poultry etc., and disease. The only other limit on cougar population is predation and we are the only predator the cougar has. Older established cats may kill younger interlopers occasionaly, but generally they will drive the challenger out. Fights to the death are generaly uncommon within most animal species. The only other predator I would think that could kill a cougar, or might even take it into consideration for any reason, would be a grizzly, and I doubt that a griz would deliberately hunt a cougar unless the animal was injured and seen as an easy kill, even then a griz may not go after the cat. If left unchecked, cougar populations will continue to expand into human inhabited areas as they are doing right now.

  • Greg (unverified)
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    I am very frustrated with Governor Kulongoski and his allies, Senators Brad Avakian and Allan Bates. Why are supposed liberal Democrats leading the charge to slaughter the state's wildlife? It is time we get real liberals into office, not these conservative Republicans in Democrats clothing. No wonder so many progressives feel disempowered and disenfranchised. We have no good leaders. Kulongoski is a nightmare for wildlife and we should have run him out of office a long time ago.

    The only reason they are promoting killing cougars and other wildlife in the state is to cater to a bunch of redneck hunters. Why? Beats me. They don't usually vote Democrat any way. So what gives? Why does Kulongoski act like a Republican?

  • Greg (unverified)
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    Joanne, Steve-

    SHOW US YOUR DATA that says cougar populations are expanding and increasing in the state. And don't just site the ODFW. Those numbers are bogus because they are based on sightings and complaints. No biologist worth his credentials would use those as the basis for determining cougar numbers.

    So, where is your data? Please don't use anecdotal tales either. I want hard numbers. How many cougars are in Oregon? And use data other than the ODFW's and some hunting group?

    You can't. And you know why? Because every other major study says cougar populations in Oregon are DECLINING, not increasing.

    God, I hate when people just spew nonsense. Just because Joanne and Steve says there are more cougars does not make it true. And they can't prove it either.

  • Nancy (unverified)
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    Greg, I agree. And Joanne and Steve must be Redstate or freerepublic trolls. There is no way they are progressives. They should go back the the freepers where they belong. No good liberal would support such wretched public policies as killing the state's wildlife for the benefit of yahoo trophy slob hunters.

  • jrw (unverified)
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    Speaking of trolls, there seem to be quite a few new names posting anti-hunt propaganda here...Steve at least is a known quantity, and a regular poster. I think I've seen Joanne here before.

    Nancy, before you go painting your opponents with such a broad brush, you might want to think about progressives such as Chuck Butcher, and the Blue Steel Democrats. As a progressive, liberal Democrat who also goes hunting, I resent your ignorant assertion that people like myself are Freeper trolls (I do appreciate being a Freeper's worst nightmare).

    (And if you assert that I positively can't be a liberal and a progressive...then you're as intolerant as a Redstater or freeper yourself)

    Back to the subject--I do have acquaintance with various rural sorts, in areas of the state notorious for cougar populations (when you need to bring in your young horses and calves at night to protect them, that's serious cougar habitat). Word is there's more of a problem than there has been in the past.

    Just sayin', y'know?

  • Greg (unverified)
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    JRW,

    I'm growing weary of you, Steve, and Joanne. You all keep saying that cougars are a problem and that there are more of them but you REFUSE to provide peer reviewed data.

    Yes, you are as conservative and redneck as the Freebers. They refuse to provide facts too. They just rail and site anecdotal evidence. Same as you. So, yes, go back to Freerepublic. You'll feel at home there. Liberals, as least real ones, provide hard data not tall tales.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    Nancy, I am a registrered Democrat, have been since I was 18 and I'm 45 now. I am more liberal on some issues and more conservative on others. I have spent 35 of my 45 years studying animals and animal behavior, an awful lot of that has been centered on wild animals, both predator and prey animals not only on this continent but on all the others as well. I have worked with and trained many individual animals and species both domestic and exotic or wild. I've worked with mamals, birds, reptiles and fish. I have also been involved in agriculture, specifically animal agriculture, almost constantly for the last 35 years and am a national activist for farm rights, especially for small producers selling to local buyers, homesteaders and hobby farmers as well as all of the industries involved in agriculture as well as the nature industries that we all support and are supported by. I wouldn't describe myself as a republican troll. I actually wouldn't describe myself as a troll at all as I try to use logic and reason in my arguements and I'm interested in hearing others' points of view in order to expand my own base of information on issues that are vitally important to me. That's why I frequent this blog, and others both conservative and liberal and/or progressive.

    The problem I have with a ban on any kind of hunting, which is what Big Wildlife appears to advocate, at least that's the impression I got when I spent over an hour at their website yesterday, is that - We do not live in a world as it would have been had humans not evolved - obviously Because humans are in this world we need to manage our environment in such a way that both the humans and the other lifeforms on this planet can exist Which means that predators must be managed Unless you are willing to force people to live in appartments and condominiums and import even more of your food and the food for your pets from a foreign country than we already do, we need agriculture large and small, and we need to allow people to live as I do farming on a small scale for a bit of side money and as a homesteader feeding myself, my family and others

    On the occasions that a predator enters an urban area, the animal is immediately removed either through trapping and relocating or by killing it. One of the issues that people living in rural areas face, and increasingly those in suburban and even the urban areas of this and other states, is how to deal with wild predators. We all have different predators we have to deal with and one of the those that are more of an issue for rural residents is the cougar. I live in Mulino, which is about 20 miles south of Portland, and there is a cougar that has been sighted off and on over the past several years just a few miles from my farm. I know several people who have seen this cat and these are people who I trust to know the difference between a cougar and a bob cat, especially when one of them saw the cat from a distance of around 30 feet as it crossed the road in front of his truck. I don't have a problem with the cat as long as it sticks to killing deer. If it starts killing stock then I have a big problem with it. I know personally how predators can be acclimated to living in proximity with humans and our livestock/pets. This has been a problem with the coyote population for years. I personally have had to run one coyote away from my barn by throwing dirt clods and sticks at them, after which I promptly went to the house and got a rifle to keep at the barn in case I saw the animal at my barn again. I had been regularly loosing chickens, and once I ran the animal off and patroled the perimiter of my pasture and livestock facilities with our dog, I stopped loosing chickens. I still can't do anyting about the raptors that live in the area but that's the way it goes. I'm not about to lock up the chickens in a CAFO style shed 24/7/365.

    Having studied animal behavior for the last few decades I believe that one of the important functions that hunters using hounds can perform is not only to remove animals that are or could become a problem in a given area, such as young cats that perhaps will see a calf or a colt as an easier meal than a deer, but, and this is the more important one in my oppinion, to keep the predators like cougar afraid of humans and anything associated with us. That keeps us and our animals off the buffet. It might also encourage an animal that is having a hard time finding enough deer and elk to eat to look elsewhere instead of moving into my pasture.

    Given the fact that we are here, and we do need agriculture to support all those people living in the cities and elsewhere to produce food and all of the other things that make life more convenient for all of us, then we need to manage both the predator population and the prey species that are the traditional food supply for the predators. Remember, it's not just the carnivores that are a problem to agriculture. One of my dad's good friends owns one of the trendy wineries out in Helvetia. His big problem isn't with cougar he'd love to have more cougar as he doesn't like hunting the elk and deer, it's with elk, and especially the deer who think that the grapes are just as good for deer snacks as he thinks they are good for making Pinot Nior wine. And they have a cougar out where they are, their postman has seen the pug marks in the dust on the side of the gravel road while delivering mail.

    Personally, I don't particularly like the way cougar are hunted in Oregon, but when the people, in their infinite wisdom, voted to end hound hunting, the only other type of hunting possible were more or less indiscriminate 'boot' hunting and/or hiring more state hunters, who do use dogs, to control the cougar population. Trophy hunters do serve a function in controling the population density of the cougars in a given area, I just wish that they were able to be more descriminate in which cats they kill. And not all people who shoot cougar do it just for the trophy. Some people actually like the meat, I've never tried it, I don't think I'd like it and wouldn't kill a cougar unless I had to because it started killing stock. Like bear, I don't like the taste, don't need the pelt, so I don't hunt the animal.

  • Greg (unverified)
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    Joanne-

    Spare me the condescending, "I've spent my life studying animals" routine. Unless you can provide HARD data about cougar population numbers than don't waste my time with your posts.

    So, I'll ask ONE MORE TIME -- show me the data that says cougars are increasing and present a problem. And I want peer reviewed, objective data. Unless you can provide that, you are only blowing smoke. And that is exactly what conservative, Republicans do.

    You are no liberal and I can't for the life of me understand why you even post here. Perhaps that is what's wrong with liberals. They are too accepting. If you post nonsense like your comments on the Freepers or Redstaters sites they boot you off faster than Ann Coulter can spew hatred.

    SHOW ME THE DATA!

  • Greg (unverified)
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    And Joanne, if you "trained" exotic animals then you are no friend to wild animals. No wonder you like to kill them. You have no respect for them. Wild animals should be left wild, not trained to do stupid pet tricks for humans.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Marion writes, "Why do you refuse to answer Brian's question? So, I'll ask it, "Would you support having the ODFW submit their cougar management plan to independent peer review? If not, why not?"

    And what question was that? I searched Brian's comments, and found only the question about supporting having a peer review of the ODFW plans. I have no problem with that. In fact, my point is that Brian appears motivated not by science, but by a combination of political and moral beliefs about the killing of animals that runs contrary to science.

    Marion - I do appreciate that you have noted more studies, which Brian apparently refused to do. I read the newspaper article linked to in his original post, and frankly it was full of lots of opinion and very thin on science, only actually discussing one range actually studied no where near Oregon. He mentions a second link (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004285453_cougar16m.html) that when I attempted to use it lead me to a "no longer online" or never there dead end.

    So, your links are interesting Marion. But frankly, they fall short of what is needed. I have never once stated or indicated that I think cougars should be eliminated. To the contrary, I have advocated that good science be used to keep that population in balance and viable for its range. Several of the comments you quote are off track. They talk about sport hunting as not being a viable method of dealing with various cougar problems. I agree. However, sport hunting, which I have no disagreement with, is in fact a method of reducing unwanted population when that is necessary. It is not the only method.

    Marion - you never seem to get to a point in all you wrote. It appears that you disagree with me, and the point I've made is that wildlife management is necessary to sustain the wildlife population. If you disagree with me on that point, what you are essentially saying/writing is that we ought leave this population without management. And as I have pointed out, that is extremely unwise. It will result in population crashes in given ranges of any species that is not managed. It is a simple and well proven fact - from a century of science.

    What Brian has failed to prove, is that anything that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is doing is in fact having a negative effect upon the population of cougars in Oregon. The only research he noted that was accessible, was about Washington, and it was only about one range area is eastern Washington at that. The files and reports of the ODFW are open to the public, and are completely available for peer review. Where is that peer review? Is it really the responsiblity of the citizens of Oregon to first pay for a governmental agency to do its job, and then pay again and perhaps again for others to repeat the work? If groups want third party peer review, please, go ahead. There is nothing stopping anyone from paying for this.

    Greg - you state that except for the ODFW there are many studies that show a declining cougar population in Oregon. Please, where are these studies?

    As for those who somehow think I'm a troll because I'm okay with hunting, and my views on this subject don't match your preset liberal/progressive stereotype - please note that I am a contributor to Blue Oregon, so I'm hardly a troll, and that you misrepresent my views. I'll say it again - I'm in favor of wildlife management so that the wildlife species are preserved. Failure to manage WILL result in periodic species specific population crashes as was the problem 75 to 100 years ago prior to wildlife management. I hold as a core progressive belief that we must educate ourselves on topics and not just hold popular beliefs. The core of good citizenship involves education, held as a personal lifelong goal. One who has all the answers without education and continued learning is a fool.

    And that is why I have asked several times for the anti-hunting advocates to provide their research here, and I have not received any research to the point. That point is the claim that the cougar populations are declining. Not one study has been referenced here that points to a single range area where cougar populations are declining in Oregon. In fact, the uncontested research on the table shows that the cougar population is up. Just saying that the methods of the ODFW are poor is not contesting that research. To contest the research, there needs to be credible alternative studies, and as far as I can tell, no one has done that.

    Short of actual studies, all we have is what we hear from our rural neighbors. Here where I live in the center of the State, my neighbors are seeing more cougar. In the 60 some years that my neighborhood has been the southern boundary of Prineville, in the first 50 years there was not one sighting of a cougar. In the last 10 years there have been at least 10 sightings. Statistical freak? I don't know, but what we believe here in Central Oregon is that the population of cougars is up, and apparently the ODFW agrees with us.

    I wish we had more to go on.

  • Brian Vincent (unverified)
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    Steve-

    I was away for the weekend so was unable to respond to your request for specific studies. I was not, as you accused me of, refusing to answer your questions. Below are quotes from many biologists who specifically reviewed the Oregon Cougar Management Plan. I would also encourage you to read through the studies Marion mentioned since many of them address cougar population data as well.

    "Contrary to accepted belief, our findings suggest that cougars in the Pacific Northwest are currently declining. Increased conflicts between cougars and humans in this area could be the result of the 1) very young age structure of the population caused by heavy hunting, 2) increased human intrusion into cougar habitat, 3) low level of social acceptance of cougars in the area, or 4) habituation of cougars to humans. To help preserve this population, we recommend reduced levels of exploitation, particularly for adult females, continuous monitoring, and collaborative efforts of managers from adjacent states and provinces." Journal of Wildlife Management, 2006

    "The rationale for the 3,000 cougar figure in Objective 1 is not clearly supported…." Gail S. Olson, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife Biology, Oregon State University, on behalf of the Oregon Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

    "The department has continued to assert that Oregon’s cougar population is exploding despite the research of expert scientists who refute the figures, and insist that the majority of so-called cougar sightings are false." Dr. Paul Beier, Northern Arizona University

    "It is my opinion that in its current form, the population model (Keister and Van Dyke(2002; A predictive population model for cougars in Oregon, Northwest Science 76: 15-25) is inadequate to meet the needs of a reliable management tool. …the critical value of the indicator variables is associated with a much greater degree of uncertainty than is admitted to in the Plan." Barry Noon, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

    "The Cougar Management Plan is deeply flawed….The Cougar Management plan is built around an insufficient population model. The kill recommendations are…unsupported, because they are based on a model that could have easily overestimated population size by several thousand cougars." Travis Longcore, Ph.D. and Catherine Rich, J.D., M.A., Land Protection Partners, Los Angeles, California

    "Throughout this chapter (Chapter VI), you refer to cougar density estimates derived from a cougar population model. I am not familiar with the model referred to, but I am skeptical of density estimates derived in this manner." Chuck Anderson, Ph.D., Trophy Game Management & Research, Wyoming Game and Fish Department

    "Calve:cow ratios are repeatedly stated to be a reliable index to the cougar population. This is a false assumption. …It is stated in the document that population is the best indication of herd health. This is false. …Models are used to determine population numbers, trends and densities. Those models are of questionable reliability. …The density estimates provided are surprisingly high. …There is little evidence that sport hunting decreases human/cougar interactions and it is unlikely that the management strategy outlined in the document will lead to the stated management goals." Becky Pierce, Associate Wildlife Biologist, California Department of Fish and Game, and co-author of the 2005 Cougar Management Guidelines

    "Although the most recent draft repeatedly states that female cougars are extraordinarily fecund and they may produce anywhere from one to six kittens with an average of two to three per litter, it provides no information on kitten survivorship. This is vital information since known mortalities produced by non-hunting removals will virtually never include young kittens. Furthermore, the 2005 draft plan states that “…a large proportion of adult females in some populations could be reproductively sterile.” This assertion is absent from the most recent plan, as is the fact that female cougars tend to produce the largest litters during their first reproductive year and that this number tapers off in later years. Both kitten survivorship and decreased female fecundity with age are two key factors that were not considered in the creation and implementation of the cornerstone population model." Lauren E. Nolfo – Clements, PhD, Wildlife Scientist

    "Also, none of the density estimates from the various cougar studies done in Oregon are in published papers, and I have no way to assess them since there’s no explanation of how the density estimates are obtained (see Table 2, pg 7 in Draft Plan). Publication in a peer-reviewed journal would provide methodology and more credibility...3. Other methods to reduce conflicts (e.g., outreach, education, husbandry) tend to be given little consideration." L.L. Sweanor, wildlife biologist (over the past 20 years have been involved in different aspects of cougar research (including ecology, predator-prey relationships, behavior, and cougar-human interactions))

  • Brian Vincent (unverified)
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    Steve-

    I also should have clarified something. While it is true the cougar plan was reviewed by scientists, the state largely ignored most of the recommendations by some of the most reputable cougar biologists in the country. What we would like to see now is to have the cougar plan reviewed by a panel of cougar biologists and once they provide their comments have the ODFW incorporate those findings into an amended plan. I think our position is quite reasonable.

    Furthermore, we want the ODFW to shift resources from lethal control and expansive hunting of cougars to public education aimed at helping communities prevent conflicts. Non-lethal, preventative measures, such as appropriate land-use planning and improved animal husbandry. For example, the agency should be educating individuals to take simple steps, like avoiding feeding wildlife, bringing pets in at night, sheltering domestic farm and ranch animals, installing motion lighting around their property, recreating with others while in cougar country, and educating their families about cougars. These would go a long way toward preventing conflicts.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Brian -

    Not one comment that you or Marion quote shows range specific cougar populations. Some talk about the Northwest as a region, some talk about Oregon as a State, some just offer opinions that the model is not correct.

    Please, some science, not opinions by scientists!

    As I noted before, Oregon has many specific ranges. There is nothing in anything you have quoted that would contradict my and my neighbors contentions that cougar populations have increased in our area. Not one thing. So, that's not science, that's conjecture. Mind you, if the ODFW model is flawed, well, propose another, do the research, come up with credible alternatives. Short of that, its just so much wind even if some of that wind comes from someone with a Ph.d after their name.

    Frankly, the "science" you quote in its quality isn't any different that the "science" quoted by those that have denied global warming. Opinions and questioning the model is not the same as research and fact.

  • Brian Vincent (unverified)
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    Steve-

    I'm not going to continue this dialogue because you simply dismiss scientific study and statement after another yet only offer anecdotal tales about how you and your neighbors have seen more cougars. You are not a biologist, have no expertise in cougar population dynamics, and yet you effortlessly disregard some of the best cougar biologists in the country. Clearly, you have an agenda and that is to prop up the ODFW at every turn.

    I'm obviously not going to convince you. So, I will turn my attentions to educating more open minded people who will objectively weigh the facts and come to their own conclusions. It is very likely a court will ultimately determine the outcome of the Cougar Management Plan. Given that Big Wildlife and our colleagues are batting nearly 100 in the courts and that judges have routinely sided with our movement on the science of these issues, I am optimistic that the Cougar Management Plan will be thrown out because it is based on such shoddy "science."

    I would hope that some day you could put aside your agenda and look at the facts.

    At this point, I am no longer open to a discussion with you. You only want to hear what you want to hear. Marion and I have posted a number of studies here and I doubt you read any of them. Had you done so, you would have seen merit in our arguments.

  • fuck you (unverified)
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    get a life, who cares about the damned enviornment. sooner or later were all going to die anyways. so why help something that cant give back to us? fuckin tree huggers, cougars suck dick anyways, just like you guys.

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