Governor should sign cougar bill

Problem cougars are in our midst. Look no further than the problem cougar taken out recently by Hunter Road north of La Grande and the big cat that was trapped near Grande Ronde Hospital months ago.

When humans and wildlife share space, confrontations are inevitable. And confrontations between the secretive big cats and humans have been increasing since Oregon voters passed Measure 18 in 1994 that outlawed hunting cougars with hounds.

Since 1995, the cougar population has more than doubled, the state estimates. The cat population now stands at 5,100, the ODFW says.

The growing population of cougars raises issues of public safety and predation on deer and elk herds.

A bill heading to the governor's desk would put more balance in the cougar management equation. The bill would allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife to deputize hunters with hounds to act on the state's behalf. These hunters would have to meet training requirements, undergo a criminal background check and not be able to hunt other animals while acting on behalf of the state.

If the bill is signed into law, the state would save money. Previously, it had been paying professional hunters to go after problem cougars.

It was a big mistake to let the cougar population get out of control, and it should be controlled just like any other wildlife population. The governor should sign the bill and put some sanity back into cougar management.

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