By Cecil Fredi
If you have cancer, taking an aspirin is not the cure. But this is how Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) would attempt to cure the mountain lion problem. This is why I make that statement. ODFW finally realizes they have too many mountain lions in the state. The big controversy is over who should pay the feds to remove some of them, sportsmen or the taxpayers. ODFW thinks removing 40 percent of the estimated number of lions is going to be the cure for their lion problem.
ODFW is not even close
to solving this problem
A decision on this controversy is scheduled in Salem, Oregon on April 13. Oregon, like most western states, has a serious predator problem. The real problem is that those in charge will never admit there is a problem and thus there is no need for a cure.This is a serious dilemma that all western states are facing. The question is, how did these states get into such a mess?
To answer that question, one must realize that the Golden Rule applies here. He who has the gold makes the rules. Most state fish and wildlife departments get pretty close to their entire budgets from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and tags. Federal taxes on guns, ammunition, etc. allow the government to return money to the states’ fish and wildlife agencies. This money is usually returned at a 3 to 1 ratio by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF & WS). It is the USF & WS who has the gold or in this case, the dollars to distribute to the states’ fish and wildlife agencies. This money assures that they make the rules.
In the early 1960’s, USF & WS decided to discontinue the bounty system on mountain lions. It was at that time that the feds put the pressure on the western states using the lie that it would produce more revenue to the fish and game agencies by making the lion a (falsely classified) big game animal. What state fish and wildlife agencies failed to realize is that the miniscule amount of money made on the sale of lion tags will be lost tenfold by the decline in deer, sheep and elk numbers. Another giant lie was stated on May 26, 1965 by director Frank Groves at the Nevada Fish and Game Commission meeting, “Placing the cougar on the big game list was done to afford some control and protection over the animal which is included as one of the U.S.’s endangered species.”
What a whopper!
It takes years of studies and a massive amount of proof to place an animal on the Federal Endangered Species list. Where are all those years of documentation? I’m saying that they don’t exist and it is impossible to make the mountain lion endangered. Here is why. There are many hundreds of thousands of protected acres like national parks, military installations, private property and other lands where hunting is not allowed. This provides numerous sanctuaries for the mountain lions. Want more proof that you cannot make the lion extinct? Texas refused to make the lion a big game animal keeping it as predator status. In other words, you see it, you can shoot it. Texas still has an abundance of mountain lions. Oh, by the way, mountain lions do not recognize state borders so Oregon lions can go to California where they are totally protected.
ODFW, like most western states, needs to get back to basic game management 101. Start off by asking the obvious: what is hunting? The answer: hunting is the humane way to harvest surplus game birds and animals. If there were no surplus, do we need hunters or hunting? The answer is no. How do you insure that there is no surplus? Why just protect predators and let them remove the surplus. Wake up ODFW; it is the sportsmen who fund your agency with dollars, not the anti’s with their emotions. California was the first state to completely protect a non-endangered big game animal from any type of hunting. Was it a deer, sheep or elk? No, it was the predatory mountain lion. The only thing increasing mountain lion numbers did, other than destroy deer, sheep and elk and create financial havoc for fish and game agencies, was to give biologists solid employment and insure their retirement for years. The biologists can study the lions for decades, assuring years of job security.
The ODFW Cougar Management Plan makes the following statement, “Cougars are an Oregon success story. After being nearly eliminated by the mid-1960s, today they have a healthy population. The current cougar population in Oregon is estimated to be “5,100.” Let’s study this ridiculous statement. What the hell do you call success? If you call reducing deer, sheep and elk numbers which produce millions in revenue to increase mountain lion numbers which produce almost no revenue a success, then keep patting yourself on the back. Where is the proof that they were nearly eliminated in the mid-1960s? For the most part, it takes a lion hunter with dogs to capture or kill a lion. Oregon would have had to be overrun with hounds-men to accomplish this feat. Your estimate is 5,100. I realize the key word here is “estimate,” but if someone were to say that there were 10,000 lions in your state, how would you prove or disprove it? The fact is that because of the nature of the lion, you don’t know their numbers.
ODFW wants to reduce the mountain lion population from 5,100 to 3,000 or kill 2,100 lions. This will be accomplished using hounds and snares. I have conferred with numerous houndsmen who say that in Oregon if a houndsman averaged taking one lion a week, it would be extremely good. The rain on the western coast would make that a very difficult feat. But let’s assume that it can be done.
Now it is time to put a pencil to this project. Removing 2,100 lions divided by 52 (weeks in a year) means 42 houndsmen would be required to complete this task. What will it cost per houndsman? Let’s put a $40,000 per year fee on their services. They have to feed many dogs year round and procure vehicles, expend fuel, etc. Hooray, somebody just spent $1,680,000 at the very least. Of course, there will be two groups not happy: the anti’s will be one group and it will either be the sportsmen or taxpayers who will fund this fiasco and they will be the other unhappy ones. Now at last the problem is solved. But is it really?
Quite often when a tom cat meets a female cat in the hills, the end result is a litter of cubs. So the cycle of increasing mountain lion numbers continues. At the very best, what ODFW is proposing is only temporary. Mountain lions can have litters at any time of the year and for some unknown reason, more cubs born are females than males by a two to one ratio.
When is ODFW going to wake up? In 1986, there were 36 complaints concerning mountain lions in Oregon. In 2003, there were 697. This should be a warning, but it won’t be because it will fall on deaf ears. At some point, there will be some children killed by mountain lions. How many will it be before the agency reacts? Why must any child ever die because of ODFW’s failure to act? Whatever that number becomes, should ODFW be facing a class action lawsuit for failing to protect humans? ODFW needs to do the right thing. First, get a copy of the Mountain Lion Workshop, January 13 and 14, 1976. Upon reading it thoroughly, you will see how the western states were duped by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Mountain lions are not endangered nor will they ever be. Then put them back on the predator list where they belong, allowing for the use of private trackers and their hounds to hunt them. Many agencies have studied mountain lions for fifty years and learned very little. What these agencies should have learned is that what they are doing is not working. Let’s clean up this mess and end it once and for all Oregon! It can be done if the western states in unity make the necessary changes. This is what ODFW should be doing, but they won’t.
Cecil Fredi is president of HUNTER’S ALERT, a Nevada sportsmen’s organization dedicated to keeping the sportsmen informed.
He can be reached at:
1736 E. Charleston, #240
Las Vegas, NV 89104
To learn more about mountain lions. Log on to www.huntersalert.org.