Four bills have been introduced this year into the Oregon legislature that threaten cougars. All four bills, H.B. 2107, H.B. 2589, S.B. 371 and S.B. 458, would take a step back towards animal cruelty and once again put Oregon's cougar population and other wildlife in grave danger from the cruel and unnecessary practice of hound hunting.
Oregon mountain lions have been safe from hound hunting, known as 'hounding,' since 1994, when a citizens' initiative, Measure 18, overwhelmingly passed in favor of a ban on hounding. Measure 18 outlawed the use of packs of radio-collared dogs to chase and tree mountain lions for sport hunting and was a major victory because it passed with resounding statewide voter support. There was an effort to repeal Measure 18 in 1996, but that was stopped by an even greater voter majority who spoke loud and clear - Oregon's citizens don't want hounding of cougars.
The bills that have just been introduced would not only undo this statewide initiative that passed by a large voter majority - setting a precedent that endangers the democratic process - they would bring back cruel and unethical hunting practices.
2017 Bills introduced in Oregon Legislature that would bring back hounding for trophy hunting of cougars:
H.B. 2107, H.B. 2589 and S.B. 371 would allow counties to "opt out" of Measure 18, and would set a dangerous precedent that ignores citizen participation in a democratic state government by rendering majority votes on statewide ballot measure initiatives meaningless. And if this legislation is enacted, it would create a chaotic approach to the management of cougars and all wildlife by making state law and regulation unenforceable in counties who vote independently to opt out.
S.B. 458 would mandate the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to adopt a statewide controlled hunt program for trophy hunting cougars with hounds. This would be a direct violation of state law that was approved by a majority of Oregon voters in 1994 through Measure 18.
Hounding is a cruel and unethical practice
Hunters who run hounds, known as 'hounders,' should know where their hounds are at all times because of the radio collars they wear, but hounds can range miles from their hunter/handlers, crossing private land and attacking, injuring and killing non-target game and even pets. And dependent cougar kittens fall victim to hound packs as they are attacked and killed during the chase. Hounds are also injured and killed on the hunt as they engage male lions and mother lions who are trying to protect their kittens.
While hound collars will signal a 'tree' when the pack has a cougar trapped, it can take the hunter a significant amount of time to arrive for the kill while the cougar waits, terrified and exhausted in the tree or on the cliff ledge, surrounded by the frenzied hound pack. And when the hunter arrives, the kill is made at close range with no escape. There is no fair chase here, and many hunters agree that hounding is not fair sport.
Oregon's cougar population is already under stress from trophy hunting
According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife data, cougar complaints are at an all-time low. Cougar mortality numbers are twice that of the year before Measure 18 was passed, perhaps coinciding with the fact that Oregon already ranks fifth highest nationwide for trophy hunting mortality of cougars. Between 2005 and 2014, trophy hunters killed 2,602 cougars, with an average of 260 cougars killed annually. So it's clear that even without hounding, trophy hunting is responsible for high cougar mortality. With cougar complaints at an all-time low, it's impossible to justify an increase in hunting because of conflict. There has never been a documented incident of a cougar attacking a human in Oregon.
Bringing back hounding - a cruel and vicious practice - for the trophy hunting of cougars would be a giant step backwards. The majority of Oregon voters have demonstrated their will for more humane and ethical treatment of cougars. This should be honored as part of the democratic process, not undermined by special interests.
Take Action! Visit our action alert Here and send a message to your Oregon state representative and state senator urging them to oppose bills H.B.2107, H.B.2589, S.B.371 and S.B.458. If you're out of state, you can still send a message to the Governor.