Hunting > Small Game & Predators

Predators at the Back Door (Page 2)

As coyotes, cougars and bears expand their ranges, humans must learn to live on a landscape that protects predators at enormous cost.

Reflecting on the fact that the cougar was on the property of an 80-year-old Korean War veteran, an Idaho Fish and Game official told Zach, “This could have turned out very differently. It would certainly have become a problem we would have had to deal with. You did us a favor!”

Unlike many grizzly attacks in which the bear is protecting a kill or its cubs, attacking black bears or mountain lions usually have one intention—to kill you. Bears habituated to humans, either by food or constant exposure, present the most danger. Young cougars, typically hungry males searching to establish a territory, are often the most aggressive. Old, injured, malnourished lions driven by hunger also have been known to become aggressive. Young children or small adults are most vulnerable to attack, yet lions have killed adults, including some athletes running or biking.

Mountain lions are expanding their range from Western states and Florida. Actual sightings or physical evidence have been noted in 11 Midwestern and Eastern states. Though most biologists believe populations of mountain lions are healthy in Western states, in recent years anti-hunting movements have arisen to protect mountain lions, particularly opposing hunting with dogs. Essentially, banning or restricting hunting options limits biologists’ ability to control cougar populations. California residents in 1990 passed Proposition 117, which banned all mountain lion hunting and made the animals a “specially protected species.”

This fall California further expanded its oversight of mountain lion control. The governor signed into law a bill requiring California Department of Fish and Game officials to use nonlethal procedures when responding to mountain lions not designated as public health threats. Finding a mountain lion in a back yard apparently is no longer enough to justify wildlife officers’ use of professional expertise to deal with such incidents.

In Oregon hunting for cougars is allowed, but not with dogs. This year Oregon’s House of Representatives passed a bill reintroducing hunting with dogs in an effort to return to a practice banned by voters in 1994. The bill died in the Oregon Senate, despite increased sightings of mountain lions throughout the state.

In 1996 Washington voters passed a statewide initiative—I-655—banning cougar hunting with dogs. Cougars continued to be hunted without dogs in a liberal general season. Dogs were used only under WDFW authority to address specific public-safety issues with cougars. In 2004, in response to complaints of lions killing livestock and other conflicts with humans, particularly in the northeastern part of state, the legislature approved limited cougar permit hunts with dogs in some game management units. In 2011 the legislature dropped the permits with dogs. At the same time, overall cougar hunting harvest was reviewed, based on cougar population research. In 2012 Washington standardized the cougar hunting without dogs season (Sept. 1-March 31) that uses harvest guidelines and closes units after Jan. 1 when harvest guidelines are reached. Today, dogs can be used on cougars in Washington only under WDFW authority to address public safety issues.

Control of predators certainly incites impassioned controversy. Phil Cooper, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game information officer, said it best: “Anytime we have a problem with any predator, someone is unhappy. Those who lose a pet or livestock are mad that we can’t control the situation. When we do remove a problem animal, someone always complains that the animal was only doing what wild animals do. As humans move deeper into what have always been wild lands, these problems will continue to plague us. We may not like it, but it’s a problem we must learn to live with.”

As this is written in September, St. Maries, Idaho, school officials this week locked down their schools. A mountain lion was seen strolling through an alley near the local grade school. The drama, the problem, continues.

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6 Responses to Predators at the Back Door (Page 2)

maxx wrote:
December 18, 2013

Any dog with a name like 'Bichon Poo should be eaten by a coyote!

Larry wrote:
November 26, 2013

My wife and I personally saw a mature cougar cross a freeway in front of us in Osceola County, MI about five years ago. I saw it clearly and know cougars. When I tried to report it to the MDNR I was scoffed away as they, at that time, denied the existence of cougars in the Lower Peninsula. Since then there has been a horse attacked by a cougar in a neighboring county. There was finally DNA confirmation of cougars in the area when one was hit by a car and hair was recovered and tested. The MDNR now has a pamphlet titled 'Living With Cougars'. We have large tracts of 'wild land' in Northern Michigan where the cougars can find deer and some elk, along with smaller prey. I've carried a sidearm when bird hunting ever since I saw the cold stare of that cougar on the freeway shoulder...

Bob wrote:
November 26, 2013

We have predators here in western NY as well. I live on 20 acres and am surrounded by corn fields, orchards, and thousands of more acres of woods. This is not New York City, it is nearly the polar opposite. I have shot more than 1 coyote while walking my dogs after dark. They come out of my woods along my rural road and growl. I see them almost daily on my morning walk to my tree stand during hunting season. Loud whistles do do much intimidating here so I carry a pistol. NY has changed many laws recently regarding hunting and firearms in the state. (NYSAFE Act) and while it may be intending to make inner city kids safe it is endangering many others. There is a coyote season here but if one is threatening one of my kids playing outside or one of my pets during the summer I will not hesitate to protect what is mine. Proper conservation is crucial to the health of an ecosystem but at no time should a 'season' keep someone from protecting themselves or their family.

Travis Brown wrote:
November 25, 2013

Hey. Love your magazine. While reading my dad's copy this past weekend I noticed that the legend for the cougar range map is flip-flopped. Their historic range was throughout the U.S. before we killed them off. They are now returning to former territory.

Cooleemee Edd wrote:
November 23, 2013

Feel free to zap a coyote at the back door. I've faced a bobcat in a garbage can. I heard the lid come off and went out to investigate (this was a number of years ago when I worked in Zion National Park as a kid). I looked into that can and that little cat jumped out and snarled, then took off. I don't know who was most scared! Ran into a mountain lion on the road when I was walking one night. He (or she) growled something at me and then padded off into the night. Never did run into a bear.

Randy Dutton wrote:
November 22, 2013

I found Washington State Dept of Fish and Wildlife had been underreporting dangerous predator sightings and damage. I've been fighting them since 2012. I've lost all four of four calves born in the past two years to a cougar. June 2013 I got DFW to bring out the dogs and they shot it. Last Friday 11/15/13 we watched another cougar walk across our front lawn, at noon, to our house. It knew we had two dogs (a Rott and a lab, both were inside), and it could hear adults talking inside the house. With rifle in hand, I was came out the door to find the cougar 5 feet from the house. Nearly got a shot off before it leaped around the corner and ran off. DFW agents have told me they've killed many more cougars in our county than are reported on the mandated state website. Finally, two days ago the Dep. Director of Enforcement responded to my complaints about the department failing to follow state law that mandates all predator sightings and damage within 10 days. Last year's two calf kills took my state senator's office telephone call to force them to record it. Why would DFW not record the sightings? Because environmentalists don't want the public worried about dangerous predators. They're trying to protect the recent increase in wolves, and minimize the impact on landowners. The Director of DFW has gone so far as to put a letter on the website 'claiming' there are fewer sightings thus there wouldn't be an extra hunt. It's a fraud meant to mislead the public.