Policy Watch

WASHINGTON

YOU did it! Thank you to everyone who wrote via our alert concerning the hasty and harsh decision by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Commission. Governor Inslee has granted the appeal (see below) and has directed the WDFW Commission to return the cougar quota to the pre-existing 12-16%. A public comment period will now be required for any proposed increases. This would not have happened without public support. Thank you to everyone reading this. Please know that this victory is yours.

Appeal to Governor Jay Inslee:

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In April 2015, in an abrupt two-minute exchange, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Commission raised the hunting quota for cougars (Puma concolor) by 50 to 100 percent in areas of the state where wolves also live. The Commission made this decision without providing prior notice to the public, giving the public no opportunity to comment, and without the benefit of a formal presentation of cougar population dynamics by the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s own biologists.

Timeline: Washington Wildlife Commission snubbed hundreds of citizens

On June 30, animal welfare, conservation organizations and Dr. Gary Koehler, former research scientist with the Department, filed a formal petition that asked the Commission to reverse this arbitrary decision. On August 21, the Commission voted 7 to 1 to keep its controversial decision in place, ignoring more than 1,300 citizens and several non-governmental organizations.

On September 18, The Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Mountain Lion Foundation, WildFutures The Cougar Fund, Predator Defense, The Lands Council, Kettle Range Conservation Group and Dr. Gary Kohler, submitted an appeal to Governor Inslee to return cougar hunting quotas to scientifically-justifiable levels.

The Commission failed to follow its own rules, wasted millions of tax dollars.

  • According to 13 years of Washington–based, scientific research, the Commission’s April 2015 quotas will harm some cougar populations and increase mortality to dependent cougar kittens.
  • The Commission wasted an estimated 5 million dollars of taxpayer money when it jettisoned the cougar studies conducted in Washington.
  • The Commission failed to uphold the public’s trust in wildlife management. It failed to follow its own rules concerning giving the public adequate notice. The abrupt decision gave the public no opportunity to voice an opinion.

Washington residents highly value cougars.

In 2010, the wildlife department spent considerable taxpayer dollars researching Washingtonians’ values about cougars. Studies found that Washingtonians—including those in rural areas—highly value cougars with more than 90 percent in agreement that cougars are essential to their ecosystems and have an inherent right to live.¹ Washington citizens value cougars as icons of the wild and want them conserved, not turned into trophies as evidenced by a strong majority of voters, who in 1996, banned the hounding of cougars by ballot initiative.

When one cougar is killed, it harms the entire population

If a hunter kills a nursing female cougar, her young kittens will die from starvation or dehydration. Additionally, when hunters remove the stable adult cougars from a population, it attracts young male cougars to these vacancies. The immigrating young males often times will kill the kittens from the previous male so they can sire their own. In the process, however, females defending their kittens are also frequently killed too. It’s not just the one cougar in the hunter’s crosshairs who dies: hunting causes a harmful domino effect in cougar populations.²

 

¹Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, “Cougar Outreach and Education in Washington State” (Nov. 30, 2010).

²C. M. S. Lambert et al., “Cougar Population Dynamics and Viability in the Pacific Northwest,” Journal of Wildlife Management 70, (2006); H. S. Cooley et al., “Source Populations in Carnivore Management: Cougar Demography and Emigration in a Lightly Hunted Population,” Animal Conservation 12, no. 4 (2009); H. S. Cooley et al., “Does Hunting Regulate Cougar Populations? A Test of the Compensatory Mortality Hypothesis,” Ecology 90, no. 10 (2009); H. S. Robinson and R. Desimone, “The Garnet Range Mountain Lion Study: Characteristics of a Hunted Population in West- Central Montana: Final Report,” Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, (2011); H. S. Robinson et al., “A Test of the Compensatory Mortality Hypothesis in Mountain Lions: A Management Experiment in West-Central Montana,” Journal of Wildlife Management 78, no. 5 (2014); H. S. Robinson et al., “Sink Populations in Carnivore Management: Cougar Demography and Immigration in a Hunted Population,” Ecological Applications 18, no. 4 (2008); R. B. Wielgus et al., “Effects of Male Trophy Hunting on Female Carnivore Population Growth and Persistence,” Biological Conservation 167, (2013); R. A. Beausoleil et al., “Research to Regulation: Cougar Social Behavior as a Guide for Management,” Wildlife Society Bulletin 37, no. 3 (2013); Kaylie A. Peebles et al., “Effects of Remedial Sport Hunting on Cougar Complaints and Livestock Depredations,” Plos One 8, no. 11 (2013).


FLORIDA PANTHERS – IN THE EYE OF THE STORM!

The Florida Wildlife Commission is inexplicably pushing for a change in the status of the Florida Panther.

The effort and progress in Florida cannot be abandoned now and we need you to help more than ever before.

We are asking you to contact the Florida Wildlife Commission through this link and urge them to give up their plan to stop supporting the recovery of the panther in South Florida. Please submit your comment by Monday, June 22nd. Here are a few talking points. You are welcome to use any or all of these to make your letter unique, which has much greater influence. Remember that the Endangered Species Act that protects the panther is a federal law….this is all of our business, wherever we live.

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Draft Position Statement is not supported by scientific data. Were the Florida Panther Recovery Program biological staff involved in the creation of this document?
  • No longterm strategy has been identified.
  • What scientific data does FWC have to indicate that the carrying capacity of South Florida has been exceeded?
  • Where is the ‘jeopardy’ opinion from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to identify factors and contingencies that might cause the panther to become threatened or indeed extinct in the future? Increased population is not scientific evidence to justify reclassifying the Panther.
  • Public support was 91% for the recovery of the panther the last time polls were conducted.(Duda and Young 1995) Please indicate plans to reach out to attain updated survey data.
  • The entire project is funded through the sales of the panther license plate.This was an appropriation directed by the Florida legislature. There is no money from hunting license revenues, general revenue fund or taxes of any kind. How has your Position Paper addressed the future use of these dedicated funds?
  • The reported number of 100 calf depredations in one area could not be confirmed. Researchers from the University of Florida conducted a study and found 5 losses one year and 7 the following year.
  • Deer populations are being found to be robust and plentiful during recent collaring and camera surveys.
  • The position paper cites ‘substantial increases in human-panther conflict’ . What steps are being done to reduce the risk of conflict? This seems like a perfect opportunity for an influential livestock grower to set an example of predator friendly ranching. Perhaps partnerships would mitigate costs and labor-has this been explored?
  • Florida now leads the way in management response to cougars that may have been in conflict with human interests. Please define what exactly you mean by “tools and flexibility to address management challenges”?
  • What steps is FWC taking to educate owners of limited livestock operations associated with hobby farming-a demographic that is definitely increasing and where outreach would be appropriate and effective to prevent conflict?

Changes in attitudes and perceptions can be perilously insidious. In no place is this more evident than in the emerging negativity directed towards large carnivores.

The Cougar Fund is witnessing legislative agendas based on social demands in many states, yet Florida is the one state that seemed to be succeeding at gaining public support, promoting sound science by committed biologists, and celebrating ‘their’ panther!


ILLINOIS

HB 352 – Amends the Wildlife Code & removes the prohibition on taking bobcats in the State.

The Illinois Senate is still working on this bill and making amendments. We will keep you updated on its progress and provide information on how to submit comments if/when the opportunity arises.

Reasons to OPPOSE HB 352:

  • Livestock depredation by bobcats is NOT a problem in Illinois. The effect of predators on farm animals is always exaggerated in proportion to losses from all causes. For instance the national figures from the most recent report compiled by USDA showed that only one twentieth of one percent (0.2%) of livestock are lost to depredation. Of this, less than 0.1% of total cow/calf losses are to non-dog/coyote predators. In Illinois there were only two-recorded bobcat removals in 2014 according to USDA Wildlife Services. Farmers loose far more animals to non-predator causes such as respiratory and digestive illness (94.5% of all losses)
  • Non-lethal deterrents and conflict prevention are widely practiced in Illinois according to the same report. There are obviously growers who believe in this practice- why would they persist if non-lethal deterrents were not protecting them?
  • The only excuse to start hunting bobcats is financial gain, both for the State and for the individuals involved. License fees will add revenue to Illinois DNR and the hunters and trappers will take advantage of the extremely high transactions available with the Russian and Asian markets that like to buy our North American fur.
  • The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation expressly forbids the commercialization of native wild species. Bobcat fur is just about as commercial as it gets!
  • Quite simply, hunting is NOT conflict-prevention; it is random culling that does nothing to target ‘problem’ animals.

NEBRASKA

LB 127 – Eliminate Provisions Relating to Hunting Mountain Lions

On January 9, 2015, Nebraska Senator Ernie Chambers introduced LB 127, a bill that would eliminate provisions related to mountain lion hunting and repeal the authority of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to hold a mountain lion hunting season. While the Game and Parks Commission voted against holding a 2015 season, citing a lack of information and research, the intent of the Commission is to resume hunting of mountain lions in the future. LB 127 would prevent future hunting seasons.

The first public hearing on LB 127 was held on February 26, 2015. The Natural Resources Committee did not vote on the bill at this time.

We will continue to update this page with important developments and opportunities to comment.


NEW MEXICO

Bill 586

Congratulation to WCASW and all their supporters for the amazing response to New Mexico’s Bill 586 which would have removed cougars from having game animal status and made them non-protected furbearers. You all did a great job and the bill was tabled by the Regulatory Committee. Well Done from The Cougar Fund!


MONTANA

Montana has begun the process of drafting a new mountain lion management plan. At this time, we are gathering information and monitoring the situation. As soon as a draft plan is released, we will analyze it and offer feedback.

Once there is an opportunity to comment, we will provide the relevant information and contacts here.


OREGON

HB 2050/HB 2181/SB 126/SB 453 – Identical Bills that will allow individual counties to exempt themselves from Measure 18 which banned the use of dogs to hunt or pursue cougars. A two thirds majority of county voters is needed to facilitate the exemption.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources held a public hearing on HB 2050 & HB 2181 on February 17th, 2015. Thank you to everyone who submitted comments on these bills. The Cougar Fund submitted an extensive comment which you can read here.

As of late April, efforts to push HB 2050 through the Oregon House appear to have fallen flat. We will continue to monitor the progress of these bills & update this section as their status changes or further opportunities arise for the public to comment. The full text of these bills can be found here.


SOUTH DAKOTA

South Dakota’s current Mountain Lion Management Plan was implemented in 2010 and was intended to guide management through 2015. As a result, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks will be reviewing and updating it’s Mountain Lion Management Plan this year. The Cougar Fund will closely monitor the progress of the review. We will be submitting scientific resources that were not available in 2010 and strongly urging the wildlife managers to consider advances in biological research, in line with their commitment to use ‘current best science’ as a basis for management.

When there is an opportunity for the public to comment, we will post the relevant information and contacts here.


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