A great anti-hunting strategy
In the Friday, Oct. 18, issue of The Observer, I thought Jayson Jacoby did an excellent article on cougars. But, looking at his figures and considering my own experiences from hunting over 50 years, I must confess I was a bit disturbed at some of his findings. I was especially concerned at one sentence in his piece. ODFW’s strategy of controlling cougar populations seems to have worked.
I guess the term “worked” is all a matter of opinion.
When I was a young lad, there seemed to be a very viable population of cougars. I really enjoyed seeing these beautiful beasts on occasion. I would have fought hard against anyone trying to reduce those numbers. The cats had enough territory that there didn’t seem to be the infighting amongst adults and sub-adults, which often forces the younger cats into our towns and yards. They were very wild as hunters and/or dogs were chasing them quite often.
Then the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began “controlling” cougar numbers and their population began climbing. Later, the state was hit with a ban on cougar/hound hunting in 1994. The cats’ numbers skyrocketed. Just before that, our deer herds got hit with several severe winters. Our once great herds never got the chance to rebound. Hunting, with all the prosperity and food it brought to our communities, was, and likely never will be, the same again.
It should be obvious to many that the current cougar management strategy isn’t working. According to the article, we have 2,700 cougars more than the ODFW’s management plan has set for a minimum. Every study conducted on cougars has shown they’ll eat over 50 deer and/or elk a year. Do the math.
If a cougar lives a conservative five years, those extra 2,700 cats are eating 675,000 deer or elk — every five years. Certainly, that would fill a lot of family freezers.
Even amidst the huge gap between the annual number of cougars actually harvested and the number preferred by the state, the department still clings to a tag fee of $14.50 — hunters fought to bring it down from $50. Hunters are required to purchase the tag before hunting. Every year I hear of hunters coming across cougars who either forgot to buy a tag or didn’t figure they’d see a cat. Every cougar they pass on is 250 deer or over $13,000 worth of deer tags and licenses — for the sake of a $14.50 cat tag. Is that a poor business plan or what?
Today, one often waits several years to hunt a buck for just a few days and the chances of even seeing one is minimal. Obviously, we’ll never see the antlerless harvests again. Many of our young hunters come home from the woods or field greatly discouraged. Some finally give it up and spend their autumn weekends playing video games. We have food bank shortages and people starving and communities that are struggling for an economic boost.
To be sure, cougars are an incredible creature and most certainly deserve a place in our forests. But, how many do we need and at what cost? The same holds true with the wolf. Indeed, an open mind might consider this state’s current cougar and wolf plan as one of the greatest anti-hunting strategies ever employed.
Jim Ward, 61, of La Grande is a professional wildlife photographer. He is a member of the Oregon Hunters Association. My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships.
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