The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission recently met to discuss the 2018-2019 proposed big game regulation changes. The meeting, which took place on September 13-14 in Bandon, unanimously adopted big game regulations for the upcoming season pertaining to the use of decoys to bait big game and target zones, which essentially allow for the unlimited killing of lions in particular areas.
ODFW estimates that there are more than 6,400 mountain lions in the state, though this estimate is thought to be inflated by wildlife professionals. Given the available habitat and results from scientific research conducted in Washington showing roughly 5 independent cougars per 100 square miles, the Mountain Lion Foundation would estimate fewer than 3,000 independent adult cougars in the State of Oregon.
Additionally, trophy hunters in Oregon are permitted to kill up to 970 mountain lions. This quota is exceedingly high, allowing for hunters to kill up to 22 percent of the mature-aged population. This is double the sustainable rate of 11 to 14 percent established by experts. Considering the inflated population estimate in the first place, the quota is likely even greater than 22 percent of the actual adult population.
Oregon's mountain lions, however, have been safe from hound hunting 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.
Trophy hunting is the greatest source of mortality for mountain lions in the United States. Wildlife managers should adopt a science-based approach, as well as obtain a reliable population estimate to ensure the long-term survival and stability of mountain lions in the western states where mountain lions are present.