A bill that would let hunters use dogs to chase down cougars is circulating in the Oregon state Legislature, pitting animal rights activists against hunters.
In 1994, Oregon
voters passed a ballot measure banning the use of hounds in cougar
hunts. Dozens of subsequent efforts to weaken or repeal the measure
have all failed.
"I don’t know if we should so
quickly ignore the will of the voters," says state Sen. Charlie
Ringo, D, who chairs the Environment and Land Use Committee.
The proposed bill would create a pilot program almost
identical to legislation that passed in Washington state last year,
allowing dog use in certain counties. If the bill passes, the
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will assess the program in
2008 and decide if hound hunting should continue.
Broadfoot, a lobbyist for Safari Club International, a hunting
organization that helped draft the bill, says he believes cougars
are partially responsible for declining elk populations in parts of
the state. Hound hunting would also reduce livestock and human
confrontations with the cats, which are on the rise, he says.
"Oregon is rife with cougar hysteria," responds Sally
Mackler, with the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club. She notes that
there have never been any cougar attacks on humans in Oregon, and
says there is no evidence that the cats are driving down elk
populations. She adds that ranchers are already allowed to use dogs
if a cougar threatens livestock on their property.
year, hunters in Oregon claimed 251 cougars, more than any other
year on record, including years when dogs were used.