Brian Vincent, Big Wildlife, 604/618-1030,
Spencer Lennard, Big Wildlife, 541/941-9242,

Reinstates Barbaric Practice of Hounding Cougars, Sanctions Brutal Killing of Bears Who Peel Bark From Trees

Salem – Big Wildlife, an international wildlife protection organization headquartered in southern Oregon, slammed Governor Ted Kulongoski for unleashing what the group described as the Governor's “war on Oregon's wildlife.” The organization condemned the Governor for enacting legislation today that would reinstate the cruel practice of using packs of dogs to pursue cougars. The newly signed law essentially overturns Measure 18, a 1994 voter-approved ban on hounding of the big cats, by permitting the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to deputize hound hunters to carry out the Department’s Cougar Management Plan. That plan calls for killing nearly 2,000 cougars across the state. In addition, Big Wildlife said the Governor has for years been “aiding and abetting a brutal and unnecessary program” of killing bears who peel the bark of trees on corporate timberland in Oregon.

According to a June 20 article in the Daily Astorian ( the federal agency, Wildlife Services, through a contract with the ODFW, has been killing bears who remove bark from trees on private timberland. The Astorian noted that state officials have been gutting the bears, then dumping the bears’ remains in a wildlife refuge. The paper reported a road builder for a logging company, Gary Ziak, stumbled upon an open pit in the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area near Seaside and discovered about ten bear carcasses, including cubs. Ziak told the Astorian that one bear’s paw was “mangled when the animal tried to escape from a snare…This is unbelievable. It almost makes a guy cry.” Big Wildlife said conservation and animal advocacy groups urged the Governor in 2003 to cancel the state’s bear kill contract with the federal government and order the ODFW to employ non-lethal measures to reduce any bear damages to trees. The Governor has refused to take any action.

“Governor Kulongoski has waged an all out war on Oregon’s wildlife. Under his leadership, bears are trapped in leg snares, sometimes struggling for days, shot in the head, gutted, then dumped in a pit on a wildlife refuge. Their cubs are also killed. More cougars are being gunned down in the state then ever before. And now, trophy hunters will be able to chase, corner, and kill cougars with hounds despite voters banning the practice in 1994. This is the shameful legacy he will leave Oregon,” said Brian Vincent, Communications Director for Big Wildlife.

Vincent noted that during the Governor’s tenure, the ODFW has bent over backwards to accommodate trophy hunters still fuming over Measure 18. Since Oregonians passed the measure, the ODFW has reduced cougar tag fees to a paltry $11.50, extended the cougar hunting season to ten months and in some areas year-round, and permitted hunters to kill two cougars per year. Vincent said that with the ODFW’s actions, along with the signing of the pro-hounding bill and the implementation of the lethal Cougar Management Plan, “Governor Kulongoski has eroded nearly every safeguard for cougars and put the final nails in the coffin for one of Oregon’s most magnificent animals.”

Under the Wildlife Services and ODFW bear kill program, most of the bears are killed with leg snares. Government agents place bait to attract bears to trap sites. When a bear steps on a buried pan, a trigger sends a wire coil around the bear’s foot which tightens as the bear struggles. Agencies that carry out this barbaric practice generally check the traps every other day. That means a bear could spend up to 48 hours in the snare, longer if a government agent doesn't check it on time. Bears caught in traps are shot. If the bear has cubs (yearling cubs stay with a trapped mother), government agency is to also kill the cubs.

Big Wildlife urged Governor Ted Kulongoski to take several actions to protect Oregon’s wildlife: 1) immediately halt the Cougar Management Plan until the plan undergoes rigorous peer review to ensure it is credible; 2) direct the ODFW to shift its focus from killing cougars to educating the public about non-lethal steps communities can take to prevent conflicts with the wild cats; 3) immediately terminate the state’s bear killing contract with Wildlife Services; 4) instruct the ODFW to implement non-lethal measures to reduce any bear damage to corporate timberlands; and 5) replace the current ODFW staff with employees who will honor the agency's mandate to conserve Oregon's wildlife for all Oregonians.

“Governor Kulongoski has sold himself as a friend to the environment and to Oregon’s wildlife.  Yet he has employed some of the most cruel wildlife 'management' practices of any governor in the U.S. With friends like that, who needs enemies?” said Spencer Lennard, Big Wildlife’s Program Director.