SALEM &

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to decide Friday whether trained houndsmen who have fish or wildlife violations on their records may volunteer to hunt designated cougars on behalf of the state.




State Rep. Peter Buckley said today he objects to the idea of having people with wildlife violations &

ranging from tag failures to poaching &

from being used to hunt cougars with radio-collared dogs to help implement the state's fledgling Cougar Management Plan.




"I would love to see (ODFW) pull back from allowing people with violations &

even those with domestic violence or animal cruelty violations &

from being used by the state," the Ashland Democrat said.




Buckley said he believes the cougar plan is based on flawed research and could actually increase human-cougar conflicts. He is urging his colleagues in the state Legislature to review the Cougar Management Plan during their February supplemental session.




"It is indiscriminate killing of cougars on a quota system," Buckley said of the Cougar Management Plan.




Williams-based Big Wildlife has launched an aggressive campaign against the plan, saying allowing the state to use volunteer houndsmen "overturns" Measure 18, the 1994 voter-approved initiative that banned recreational hound hunting of bears and cougars.




The statewide wildlife management plan aimed at preventing attacks on humans and livestock could lead to the indiscriminate killing of up to 2,000 cougars throughout specified zones, said Big Wildlife Spokesman Brian Vincent.




In written testimony to the wildlife commission, Big Wildlife points to a 2005 study that suggests that the way the state is determining cougar populations &

in part by the number of sightings and harvest levels &

are unreliable methods.




"It makes little sense to launch a plan that calls for expansive killing of cougars when the ODFW's cougar population data is based on methods that have been discredited," the group wrote.




But not all environmental groups oppose the idea of state officials using houndhunters.




The Wildlife Society of Corvallis, Ore. wrote in a letter to lawmakers that allowing the state to use houndhunters is "the most efficient and selective means" to "address conflicts between bear and cougar or humans."




The group said the bill "does nothing more than implement the original intent" of Measure 18.




State Sen. Alan Bates, who carried the legislation last session that allows the state to use volunteer houndsman, said at the time that cougar kills will not necessarily increase under the bill since state employees are lawfully using dogs already to chase cougars in three trouble spots around the state, including in Jackson County.




Bates, D-Ashland, said allowing volunteer hunters to go after specific cats will help reduce the Department of Fish and Wildlife's need to use steel traps and other "inhumane" techniques that often cost less money to use but can leave animals languishing for days.




covers the state Legislature for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com.