Two proposed bills would re-visit Oregon's ban on hunting cougar - KPTV - FOX 12

Two proposed bills would re-visit Oregon's ban on hunting cougars with dogs

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Two bills proposed in the Oregon Legislature aim to re-visit the state's ban on hunting cougars with dogs.

The controversial practice was outlawed when voters passed Measure 18 in 1994, by a 51 percent to 48 percent margin.

Senate Bill 458, introduced by Senator Chuck Thomsen, a Republican from Hood River, would allow sport hunters to hunt cougars with dogs in the state's three cougar management areas, holding drawings for controlled hunt tags when and where biologists with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife determine the animals need to be removed.

Currently, those animals are removed by ODFW.

"It would be a win-win, where you're saving the state money and you're allowing sportsmen to go out and remove animals," said Mark Knaupp, a hunter and outdoorsman from Rickreal who supports SB 458.

A separate bill, SB 371, would go even farther, allowing individual counties to opt-out of the statewide ban if voters approve it.

The Oregon Humane Society is among a dozen local and national groups opposing both bills.

"We aren't against hunting for food or subsistence, but we are against inhumane hunting and hunting that's going to be cruel to the dogs and the cougars," said David Lytle, an OHS spokesman.

According to ODFW, there are currently more than 6,200 cougars living in Oregon.  

Hunters legally killed 267 of the cats, without the use of dogs, in 2016, and 233 more in 2015.

In addition, hundreds more of the cats over the years were killed through what ODFW calls "administrative removal," or because they were considered a risk to human safety.

"We've been fortunate we haven't had any fatalities with human beings in the state of Oregon. But we have had them in adjoining states and British Columbia, for example, and it's probably just a matter of time before that happens," said Knaupp.

SB 458 is currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

SB 371 is being considered by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

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