Note: this article has been corrected since publication - Eds.
In Oregon, a growing number of complaints about mountain lions have prompted the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to take action -- by slashing lion numbers in some parts of the state.
In April, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a plan to reduce the number of human-lion conflicts by reducing the number of lions. The population would not be allowed to drop below 3,000 -- the estimated population in 1994, when the state's voters banned the use of dogs in sport-hunting the big cats. Since then, says the department, the lion population has increased to approximately 5,000.
Like many other Western states, Oregon has expanded its lion-hunting season in recent years (HCN, 4/12/04: Are mountain lions in danger of disappearing?). But that has failed to reduce complaints or the toll the predators take on livestock and wildlife, says Ron Anglin, the department's wildlife division administrator. He adds that although it's been nearly 100 years since a lion attacked a human in Oregon, "close calls" are on the rise.
The increase in complaints is due not to an increase in lions, but to rapid human population growth in Oregon, says Lauren Nolfo-Clements, a wildlife scientist with the Humane Society of the United States.
Some wildlife biologists who reviewed the plan, including Professor Barry Noon of Colorado State University, say the agency's lion count is exaggerated because it relies on a scientifically dubious model and 40-year old mortality data.
The Sierra Club and the Humane Society may consider legal action to stop the killing, which could begin this fall.