Last weekend a cougar was shot in the head and killed in Eugene after being captured and put in a cage. The 2-year-old cougar killed three chickens and two goats named Justin Timberlake and Rufio near Hendricks Park, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. ODFW reports that another young male cougar was trapped and killed March 17 and a trap has been set for a third cougar. These latest cougar captures mark the trend of increased cougar killings in Oregon, says Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense.
Numbers released from ODFW indicate the number of cougar killings has increased since the early 1990s; tags sold to hunt cougars have increased as well. In 1992, 517 tags were sold and that number rose to more than 55,000 in 2013. In 1992, 187 cougars were killed. In 2013 it was 530.
“You look at the kill numbers,” Fahy says. “I believe the numbers say it all.”
In the particular case of the cougar that was caught March 12 near Hendricks Park, Fahy says the deaths of all the animals could have been prevented with simple preemptive measures.
“Hey, you’ve got livestock, you’re responsible for protecting them yourself. It’s basic animal husbandry,” Fahy says.
ODFW said in a press release that “ODFW does not relocate cougars, as relocation would create territorial conflicts among existing cougar populations and could also spread disease. Further, ODFW would not relocate a cougar killing livestock, as the cougar is likely to repeat this behavior elsewhere.”
Fahy says that ODFW could have easily reintroduced the cougar in a different, more remote part of the state.
“They are an agency that is in the business of killing animals,” Fahy says. “There are built-in innate population control systems. We don’t need to do it for them.”
Fahy says that cougars have little to no legal protection under Oregon state law and that although cougars have expansive territories, they usually stay away from humans.
“The hype around [cougar sightings] goes far beyond the actual threat,” Fahy says. “In reality, there’s never been one cougar attack [on people] in Oregon. And I think that puts perspective into it.”
This story has been updated.
Fahy says actually rather than relocate cougars, which can separate family members and cause other unperceived problems, the best strategy is to leave the wildlife alone and ask people to change their behavior and take responsibility to protect their property.