The fur is flying

  Michael Moss’ 64-acre goat ranch sits on the edge of BLM land in southwestern Oregon. It’s “healthy cougar country,” he says, and he’d like it to stay that way. That’s not something you’d expect to hear from most livestock owners, but Moss is a member of Goat Ranchers of Oregon, a group that advocates smart land stewardship. And that stewardship, Moss notes, should include not only deer and elk, but their predators as well.

That’s why Goat Ranchers of Oregon has teamed up with six conservation groups to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. The plaintiffs are concerned that under Oregon’s 2006 cougar management plan, Wildlife Services, under contract with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is killing cougars in certain parts of the state without having adequately studied the environmental impacts of removing the big cats.

According to the cougar management plan, an estimated 5,100 cats roamed the state as of 2003. Oregon Fish and Wildlife wants to maintain a population of at least 3,000. But that plan is drawing fire from individuals and groups who interpret that to mean 2,000 cats will be indiscriminately killed. The agency, however, says that it intends to eliminate only as many cougars as necessary to reduce conflicts with humans and livestock.

The agency’s reasoning is flawed, says Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. He notes that increased complaints about cougar conflicts don’t necessarily mean there are more cougars; rather, they might reflect human encroachment on cat habitat or inaccurate sighting complaints. Fish and Wildlife lacks the data needed for an accurate picture of cougar numbers, he says. Furthermore, he adds, recent studies suggest that over-hunting may compound cougar problems, by taking older, more established cougars and leaving younger, inexperienced cougars, which tend to go for “easy meals” like livestock.

Accurate population estimates for cougars are difficult to get, agrees Ron Anglin, Oregon’s wildlife division administrator. He says the state’s estimate is a conservative one, based on 20 years of research in Oregon and other Western states, using data that includes pregnancy rates, estimated mortality rates, and kitten survival. And, he says, the plan does not set a target number of cougars to be eliminated, but rather a minimum number of cats to be maintained.

While the lawsuit wends its way through the courts, Fish and Wildlife, and Wildlife Services, are continuing to study cougar conflicts in the three target areas as outlined under the cougar management plan. Moss knows how politicizing an issue like this can be, but for him, the lawsuit isn’t about politics: “It’s about sound decision-making, and healthy wildlife populations include predators.”
Feb 11, 2008 11:10 AM

Thank God there are livestock owners who appreciate native predators! "Wildlife Services" should be completely shut down.

Feb 11, 2008 11:41 AM

To read that ranchers are taking a stand for cougars marks a profound sea change in the atitudes and actions of agricultural and enviromental interface.  This is incredibly exciting to read.  There still is hope for the top carnivores in our ecosystem!

Feb 25, 2008 05:44 PM

I hope that all wildlife and animal lovers will please WRITE THE ODFW AT:



and complain directly to them about this TERRIBLE SLAUGHTER that is about to take place!


I am a past Director of the 'Northwest Cougar Action Trust"; and have been fighting to save Oregon's cougars for over twenty years....

This very nice article left out a really important point:


-The Voters of Oregon think so - because they passed legislation TWICE to stop this VERY practice! But here in Oregon, as in many backward wildlife agencies in the West, the state department of Fish and Game is JUST OUT TO MAKE MONEY. It does NOT care about the health of cougar populations; and apparently it also does not care about HUMAN SAFETY.


The environementalist here have been LECTURING the ODFW for two decades about why the indescriminant killing of Cougars CAUSES Human Safety problems. The article alluded to it, but it is a VERY important point. The young "transient cougars" really DO poise problems, because they are migrating into new territories, after the houndmen kill the old 'Toms'. Conservation Biologist have told the ODFW this killing spree will "CAUSE Public Saftey" threats! - SOMEONE COULD BE KILLED!

Cougar populations have just recovered from DECADES of slaughter in the Northwest by several bands of unethical Houndmen, and whole Groups of Poachers that were successfully prosecuted by the Game Wardens here.

This wholesale slaughter has been railroaded through the Legislature as just a 'modification' of the states horrendous 'Cougar (KILLING) Plan'. -Since WHEN is killing 2,000 of America's premier Carnivour a MINOR matter?

What's more - this atrocious killing spree has been trumped up by the ODFW's FABRICATING statistics about the increase in 'Damage Complaints". According to state documents, the ODFW claimed that there were 856 compalints in one year about cougars - THIS IS NOT TRUE.

- I went and got ALL the complaints, and have the hard-copies to PROVE that they LIED to the Legislature!

Please write the ODFW and complain....NO ONE has EVER been hurt or even attacked by Oregon's cougars -EVER! There is NO NEED for this onerous slaughter!

Please help our Cougars.....only a PUBLIC OUTCRY can stop this!

And if you will please also FORWARD your letters of complaint to ME ( I will make sure that the GOVERNOR of Oregon gets copies as well!

-Thank you for caring about Mountain Lions - they are the last vestigous of the 'Real West' and need to be PROTECTED from the very people we TRUST to PROTECT them!

Sincerely, Cat Koehn -'Northwest Cougar Action Trust'; Eugene, Oregon

Feb 27, 2008 11:00 AM

It's nice to see the ranchers are standing up for what's right. This is a pleasant surprise.