McCracken: Cougars are not to blame for low elk numbers

To the Editor:

“Cougars: too many cats, or hunters?” (The Observer, 11/23/18) is based on blatant, nefarious practices utilized by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife to manipulate public awareness in order to gain support for anti-predator, pro-agriculture and hunting agendas.

Years ago a local ODFW cougar specialist was quoted in The Observer as saying nearly 100 percent of the newborn elk in a particular nearby area had been killed by cougar that spring. He compared that to the percentage that had been killed by cougars there in previous years. The increase in percentage was literally unbelievable. So I visited his office and refused to leave until I got “the rest of the story.”

Turns out there had been a major harvest/slaughter of cow elk the preceding fall due to rancher complaints. Since dead elk don’t give birth, that action greatly reduced the number of elk calves born the following spring. However, the cougars in the area needed the same number of kills to survive. Issuing the agricultural killing tags guaranteed far fewer births and consequently an outrageous increase in percentage in elk calf loss due to cougars. (Do the math: 10 kills out of 100 births = 10 percent; 10 kills out of 10 births = 100 percent.)

That deceptive information gave the public the false impression that cougar numbers were rapidly increasing. That in turn led to issuing more cougar tags. which brings money into ODFW. Yet the success rate of cougar hunters in Oregon has been low compared to other states. Other states use low hunter success to indicate low numbers of cougars. But in Oregon low hunter success is used to support reintroducing hunting cougars with dogs. Using the percent kill information, ODFW could justify increased cougar tags that help finance the agency.

In order to keep both elk hunters and ranchers happy, ODFW has shifted the blame for low elk numbers onto cougar predation rather than agency mismanagement.

For those curious about what happens when university research finds and publishes information that conflicts with industry profits, Google Rod Weilgus University of Washington. Then join me in supporting PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Honest wildlife management is long overdue and will certainly challenge long held cultural beliefs and priorities.

Mary McCracken

Island City

Knowles: Children’s writing workshop supported by Festival of Trees

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of the Festival of Trees fundraiser hosted by the Soroptimist International of La Grande Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

This event raises funds for many local programs including the EOU’s Student Writers’ Workshop (SWW) that will be held March 9, 2019, on the Eastern Oregon University campus. The SWW is a conference for young writers in third through 12th grades in which writers, along with their teachers and parents, participate in a series of workshops practicing different kinds of writing. This conference enhances students’ writing skills and confidence and helps them picture themselves as future college students.

Without fun fundraisers such as the Festival of Trees, we would lose many valuable arts and literacy programs. Please support these efforts by attending the Festival of Trees.

Nancy Knowles

Student Writers’ Workshop coordinator

Fouty: True stewards of the land do not support killing contests

To the Editor:

The first annual Young Farmers and Ranchers coyote killing contest begins in Burns on Nov. 30 and goes through Dec. 2. This contest is put on by the Oregon Farm Bureau. Participants will compete for cash and prizes for killing the most coyotes. The team with the greatest total weight of dead coyotes wins. Piles of dead animals and a blood-soaked ground. Does this “contest” reflect the stewardship ethics of our young farmers and ranchers and Oregonians in general? No.

So why is it allowed? Turns out that in the past the State Legislature chose to define some animals as “predatory animals” (ORS 610.002) with subsequent legislation created to prevent ODFW from limiting the times, places or amounts for taking predatory animals (ORS 496.162 [3]). Currently included in the predatory animal category are “coyotes, rabbits, rodents and birds that are or may be destructive to agricultural crops, products and activities.” Note the words “may be.” Even if any of these animals are just passing by, they can be killed. Seriously? In addition, taxpayer dollars are to be used to fund their control and destruction (ORS 610.015, 610.020).

Unfortunately, despite ODFW’s mission statement “to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations,” their protection is limited to only some animals. Other wildlife can be killed anytime. Pretty sweet if you like to kill things. A real bummer if you value all wildlife, including coyotes and their contributions to natural rodent control.

True stewards of the land do not support or participate in killing contests. Instead, they respect and work with nature, partner with wildlife, hunt responsibly and address wildlife issues only when they arise and do so with respect and care. These true stewards need to let the Oregon Farm Bureau know that killing contests do not represent their ethics and only create future wildlife conflicts. All life deserves respect. Time to update these laws and end killing contests.

Suzanne Fouty

Baker City