Oregon’s Proposed 2016 Big Game Regulations (Cougars)

Below are the comments I sent to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission regarding the 2016 Big Game Regulations they are considering at a meeting on October 9th, in Florence, Oregon.


Michael Finley, Chair
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission
4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE
Salem, Oregon 97302

Re: 2016 Big Game Regulations

Dear Chairman Finley and Commissioners,

Please reject the four proposed “target areas” for cougar in the 2016 Big Game Regulations.

In these target areas, ODFW has an objective of killing 95 cougars at a cost of nearly $70,000, purportedly, for the benefit of deer and bighorn sheep, and to reduce conflicts with humans. This proposal is incompatible with scientific findings and will not accomplish the intended goals.

This proposal takes its cue from the outdated 2006 Cougar Management Plan (ODFWa). Under that plan’s “adaptive management” approach, cougars can be targeted in areas with low or declining ungulate populations. A truly adaptive management plan, however, would incorporate the latest scientific findings. Scientists have found that killing cougars to increase deer populations doesn’t work. Cougars often kill deer that are weak, sick, or generally in poor condition, deer that would have otherwise died due to environmental circumstances (Bishop et al. 2009; Hurley et al. 2011; Forrester and Wittmer 2013). Changes in deer populations are more likely linked to habitat and environmental conditions (Monteith et al. 2014).

In fact, ODFW already experimented with killing cougars to boost deer populations from 2010 to 2014, and it didn’t work. Under the Oregon Mule Deer Initiative, ODFW killed cougars in two of the same target areas identified in the proposed 2016 Big Game Regulations (Steen Mountain and Warner). From 2010 to 2014, 112 cougars were killed in these target areas. Using a “comprehensive method of counting and modeling deer populations” ODFW was not “able to document a significant change in population” (ODFWb, p. 41).

According to peer-reviewed scientific findings and ODFW’s previous attempts, killing cougars to boost deer populations does not work. The Commission should abandon the killing of cougars in target areas to boost ungulate populations and refocus resources on proven measures that actually benefit ungulates.

Please reject the four proposed target areas for cougar in the 2016 Big Game Regulations.

Sincerely,
Gabe Wigtil
Albany, Oregon

References

Bishop CJ, White GC, Freddy DJ, Watkins BE, Stephenson TR (2009) Effect of enhanced nutrition on mule deer population rate of change. Wildlife Monographs 172: 1–28.

Forrester TD, Wittmer HU (2013) A review of the population dynamics of mule deer and black-tailed deer Odocoileus hemionus in North America. Mammal Review 43: 292–308.

Hurley MA, Unsworth JW, Zager P, Hebblewhite M, Garton EO, Montgomery DM, Skalski JR, Maycock CL (2011) Demographic response of mule deer to experimental reduction of coyotes and mountain lions in southeastern Idaho. Wildlife Monographs 178: 1–33.

Monteith KL, Bleich VC, Stephenson TR, Pierce BM, Conner MM, Kie JG, Bowyer RT (2014) Life-history characteristics of mule deer: Effects of nutrition in a variable environment. Wildlife Monographs, 186: 1–62.

ODFWa. 2006 Cougar Management Plan. Available at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/cougar/docs/cougarPLAN-Final.pdf

ODFWb. Oregon Mule Deer Initiative 5 Year Summary 2010–2014. Available at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/big_game/mule_deer/docs/Mule_Deer_Initiative_5_Year_Summary.pdf

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