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Problem Cougars Are Making Headlines

If you think this blog is about 50-year-old Courtney Cox then you need to surf elsewhere. No, this article is about the conundrum that state game and fish agencies deal with daily regarding mountain lion management. As mountain lion populations swell and hunting management becomes entangled in politics the question of what to do with problem mountain lions becomes an increasingly issue.

Mountain lions have been grabbing the headlines just like the Hollywood cougars on the covers of gossip tabloids at checkout newsstands. Earlier this year a warning was issued in Breckenridge, Colorado, for a mountain lion that comfortably moved into the community. And in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Ken and Glenda Kerbo were amazed when they not only spotted, but photographed a mountain lion lurking in their backyard. They live on the east side of the city, not an area commonly called cougar country. Interestingly, this is the second year in a row they’ve had backyard-cougar company.

Another good example is what occurred recently in Portland, Oregon as reported on Fox News. Officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were called to a backyard where they found a mountain lion perched in a tree. No stranger to the area, the mountain lion had been reported by residents all week long. It felt at home, at ease and found its meals nearby. One resident reported it had killed her cat leaving just a paw and the cat’s tail as leftover evidence.

Although mountain lions roam in and out of suburbia throughout mountain lion country, having any large predator in such close proximity could result in a deadly situation. As reported, a housecat likely became lunch for the Portland mountain lion, but what’s to say a morning jogger or backyard toddler couldn’t be on the attack list next?

Taking all considerations in hand, wildlife officials waited for three hours and then tranquilized the large cat for removal. Again, reviewing all options, officials finally decided that euthanizing the cat was the best option. Of course animal rights backers didn’t let that decision go by without comment. Some said officials were taking the easy route due to the Independence Day holiday while others just wanted the animal saved.

Many believe that returning the cat to the wild was best or possibly placing it in a zoo. But mountain lions don’t listen to reason or the wishes of mankind. Officials nixed the idea of release since the animal had become at ease with humans, literally living within feet of homes. And turning the cat over to a zoo was also dismissed because of disease and territorial conflicts associated with dropping a mature animal into an enclosed environment with other cats. The state however, does relocate mountain lion kittens. However, killing the animal made the most sense.

Modern wildlife populations require management and as politics becomes intertwined with science it becomes increasingly difficult to impose hunting seasons that meet management goals. For instance, Oregon doesn’t allow the use of dogs for mountain lion hunting and neighboring California doesn’t allow mountain lion hunting at all. South Dakota, with its explosive mountain lion population, also doesn’t allow the use of dogs for hunting, except for a special, permitted hunt.

Can you imagine trying to hunt mountain lions without the aid of a dog in the thick cover of coastal Oregon? The management of large predators requires common sense, not emotion. What type of situation, conflict or catastrophe will need to occur to allow for the modern management of large predators like neighborhood cougars? Or wolves? So what do you think?

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