Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:31 AM
Courtesy California Department of Fish and Game
Adult cougar males may exceed 8 feet in length, from nose to the end of their tail, and weigh between 75 and 105 pounds. Adults of both sexes have long black tipped tails, and black coloration on the backs of their ears.
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- A legislative committee has approved a bill that removes the sunset on a law allowing the state to contract with agents to use dogs to hunt cougars and black bears.
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee unanimously moved House Bill 2390 to the floor with a do-pass recommendation despite objections from conservation groups, who in an earlier hearing on the bill urged lawmakers to retain the law's periodic review.
"What I would recommend is (HB)2390 be amended to include some means for periodic review," said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon director of the Human Society of the United States. "And I mean meaningful review, and some opportunity for public comment."
"We need an outside, unbiased, peer review of our cougar management plan," said Jayne Miller, a Turner resident and head of the Oregon Cougar Action Team.
Oregon's Cougar Management Plan, which sunsets Jan. 1, 2014, allows the state to contract with agents to use dogs to hunt cougars for purposes of public safety, in cases of livestock depredation or for purposes of wildlife management.
Curt Melcher, deputy director for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the state has contracted with 27 agents over the past two years, using some regularly, and others on a one-time basis.
The state's management plan has been in place since 2007, when lawmakers approved portions of it despite objections from conservationists, who said the plan flew in the face of Measure 18, a 1994 measure that called for a ban on the use of dogs to hunt cougars.
"When (the Cougar Management Plan) was passed in 2007, this bill was highly controversial," Beckstead said. "We felt, and I think alot of wildlife advocates felt, that it violated the spirit of Measure 18, because it essentially allowed trophy hunters, houndsmen to engage in their sport under the guise of wildlife management."
By removing the sunset, Beckstead said, the state would remove an opportunity to review the law and determine if it is effective.