Cougars to be targeted

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Oregon cougar populations have grown sufficiently to endanger elk and mule deer, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildife.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife commission expects to add four "cougar target" areas including one in Wallowa County where more cats will be killed in 2010.

The commission will consider this action after hearing a report on the effectiveness of 2006-2009 cougar target areas in a meeting Friday, Oct. 9, at ODFW headquarters in Salem.

During that three-year period, ODFW had targeted three areas in Morrow, Malheur and Jackson counties in which they intended to significantly reduce cougar populations.

The intent of the cougar target designation was to reduce livestock-cougar conflict in East Beulah Unit in Malheur County, improve elk calf survival in the Heppner Unit in Morrow County, and mitigate human and pet safety issues in Jackson County.

The desired results were achieved in both East Beulah and Heppner, ODF& W staff report, but not in Jackson County where the land ownership patterns of small acreages made the intended harvest of 24 cougars difficult.

The agency intends to keep the East Beulah area as a target area for another year and add four new target areas: the Wenaha Unit in Wallowa County, the Warner Unit in Lake County, the Steens Mountains in Harney County and the Ukiah Unit in Umatilla. Both Warner and Steens Mountain Units are part of ODF&W's Mule Deer Initiative and removal of cougars is expected to help reduce the hunting pressure on low mule deer populations. Wenaha and Ukiah Units were selected because elk populations in those areas have also been well below management objectives for years, according to ODF&W.

ODF&W will also consider significant changes to the 2010 big game regulations, including allowing hunters who have reported the results of their hunt to be entered in a special drawing for a deer, elk or pronghorn tag. Additionally, hunters who have filled their deer/elk tag may be allowed to hunt bear and cougar both before and after filling their deer or elk tag. Four new controlled archery hunts in Maury, Steens Mountain North and South Warner Units may be initiated and two new pronghorn and archery hunts and muzzleloader hunts in Paulina and North Wagontire may be added.

A full report will be furnished at a future date. Public testimony will be taken the morning of the meeting. To schedule testimony time, call 800-720-6339 or (503) 947-6044.

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