Killing wild animals spurs new debate

Slicing into a slab of chocolate cake on a picnic table at Hendricks     Park in south Eugene, Linda Gray said she wasn’t concerned about the possibility of a cougar roaming the area as she celebrated friend Betsy Priddle’s 71st birthday on Tuesday.

She was, however, upset about the fate of two cougars that were     trapped in the area and euthanized by the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, the first on March 11 and the second on Monday.

“If people go into areas where there are wildlife, they should expect to treat them with respect,” Gray asserted.

The cougars were euthanized largely because of a string of livestock     killings on a nearby property, where one man lost two goats and     three chickens over three consecutive nights. While landowners have     the right to kill animals on their property, state fish and wildlife     officials say they stepped in on behalf of people such as Gray and     Priddle who enjoy picnicking and hiking in the nearby park, some     with dogs or small children.

But Gray doesn’t see it that way, and on Tuesday offered alternative     solutions, beginning with preventing such attacks in the first     place.

“If you’re going to raise livestock in an area where there are     predators around, you need to protect your livestock,” she said.

A local wildlife advocate also questioned how the state has handled     the recent cougar incidents.

“I personally believe that this was a grave overreaction to set the     traps out to begin with,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of     Predator Defense, a national wildlife advocacy group based in     Eugene. “There had been no complaints other than from this     individual” whose livestock was killed.

Fahy said the fish and wildlife department’s claims that it does not     relocate cougars due to potential territorial conflicts, spread of     disease and future livestock killings don’t necessitate killing an     animal. While relocation is difficult, he said cougars are not major     carriers of disease and that tales of repeated livestock killings     are purely “anecdotal.”

Fahy did agree, however, that adult cougars are typically unable to     adjust to captivity, as was the case with the second cougar, which     was trapped Friday and euthanized Monday after a state wildlife     veterinarian observed its behavior in captivity.

Fahy said he is concerned that even though Oregon lifted its bounty     on cougars in 1960 and has prohibited the use of packs of dogs for     hunting cougars and bears since 1994, the state’s annual cougar     killings continue to climb — citing fish and wildlife department     statistics, Fahy noted that 530 cougars were killed in Oregon last     year as a result of hunting and other causes, Fahy said.

“Cougars are being slaughtered in the state of Oregon on a historic     level,” he said.

The fish and wildlife department last year issued more than 55,000     hunting tags for cougars — up from 588 in 1994 — which accounted for     nearly 300 of last year’s cougar deaths, Fahy added. The department     says about 5,700 cougars currently reside in Oregon.

State officials say the increase in tags is directly linked to the     ban on hunting with hounds — since the dog packs had a higher     success rate than other hunting methods, the state says it can now     issue more tags with a relatively small increase in hunting     harvests.

But Fahy said the killing of large, dominant “trophy animals” could     be cause for even more conflict between cougars and humans.

“When you hammer a population, you end up with very young animals —     juveniles and sub-adults,” he said. “These are the animals that     stereotypically get into trouble, such as preying on livestock, or     even ending up in some of these (urban fringe) places, such as     Hendricks Park.”

Fahy acknowledged that the cougars’ close proximity to the park is     not ideal for either the animals or people, but said it’s not     uncommon for the transient animals to pass through the area.

“They’ve been there before,” he said. “Nothing’s happened.”

In the case of the recent cougar attacks, Fahy said, the man who     lost his chickens and goats could have taken more precautions to     protect his livestock, such as establishing an electric fence or     securing night housing — techniques of “basic husbandry,” he said.

He said he’s disappointed that what he sees as a lack of preparation     resulted in the death of two cougars — whose hides were offered back     to the livestock owner, John Schetzsle, per state law. Schetzsle has     said he plans to turn the hides into blankets.

“I find the whole thing grotesque,” Fahy said. “He’s going to     basically be rewarded for practicing poor husbandry.”

Schetzsle, who had secured his animals within a 5-foot-high fence     and constructed a small house for his goats last summer, had said he     believes the cougars got to his animals by scaling a nearby tree. He     could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.

But Schetzsle earlier this week said that he’s gathering friends     this weekend to build a stronger chicken coop, and that he plans to     add a door to his goathouse before bringing new goats to his small     farm in April. He’s using a boarded-up stable as a chicken coop in     the meantime.

Brian Wolfer, a state biologist for the department of fish and     wildlife, said Tuesday that his agency advises livestock owners to     take special precautions — such as locking animals up at night,     stationing a guard dog nearby and installing high fencing and a     motion light — but said the law doesn’t require such measures and     allows an owner to kill any predator that damages property.

Still, he added, eliminating one animal is only a temporary     solution.

“There are few situations where removing the cougar is going to be     the end of all problems,” Wolfer said. “When you remove that cougar,     another one will eventually take its place. If you don’t learn from     that experience and take some additional precautions, you’ll find     yourself in that same situation again.”

Indeed, a third cougar may still be in the area, having been caught     on a cougar cubtrail camera that was erected at Schetzsle’s residence by state     officials last week. Officials still have a trap on the premises in     hopes of capturing that animal, should it still be in the area — but     there was no word of the latest cougar being spotted or captured as     of Tuesday night.

Among Tuesday’s park users who said they hope the third cougar isn’t     captured and killed was 22-year-old Litisha Rollings of Springfield.

“These animals have souls. They’re intelligent beings,” she said.     “We put our habitat in their habitat — they’re going to mingle.”

Follow Kelsey on Twitter @kelseythalhofer. Email kelsey.thalhofer@registerguard.com.

5 thoughts on “Killing wild animals spurs new debate

  1. That is an awful lot of hunting permits,for a state that is kind to wolves…I hope they dont start this when wolf populations climb…and at this rate,the cougar will soon be on the endangered list.

  2. What is up with the use of the word “euthanize” — these cougars weren’t ill and needing to be put out of their misery. I am so disgusted. I live in Springfield. I hike in Hendrick’s Park. I am not scared that a cougar is gonna get me. And if that was my highly unlikely fate, it sure would beat dying of cancer or being stuck in a hospital bed. Mr. Schetzsle put out cougar bait with his poor animal husbandry practices. Now he gets to hang the skins of these murdered beasts for it. Talk about a rotten situation.
    55,000 tags? Are there even that many cougars in this state? I had no idea the slaughter was so high. One is too many, as far as I am concerned. Thanks for the article (even if it isn’t a dandy-day-brightener) and for the words of Betsy Gray and Brooks Fahy.

  3. Hello! Farmer Schetzle!?? If you figured out that the cougars gained access to your goats from a nearby tree, cut the damn thing down! Thanks to your ignorance two cougars have died and they are seeking to trap a third. I’d call this damn indiscriminate! And I hope those cougar “hide” blankets you’re getting bring you nightmares for the rest of your pitiful life.

  4. I am constantly astounded by the ignorance of state wildlife “managers” and decisionmakers. They claim to be experts and to act on behalf of people’s (usually that means “ranchers’) welfare. I guess that’s true since the beneficiaries are recreational killers (hunters & trappers) and slob ranchers like this ass Schetzsle. He erected a 5′ fence? I couldn’t keep my dogs in the yard with a 5′ fence. What the hell was he thinking? The fact that state wildlife “managers” will present him with the skins of the dead cougars is obscene and is an insult to every Oregon resident. Once again, bravo to the brutal hicks who comprise the state “game” department.

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