Cougars are classified as big game in the state of Oregon. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that there are approximately 5,700 cougars in Oregon. According to their 2006 Cougar Management Plan, ODFW manages for a “minimum desirable” population of 3,000 cats statewide. If the number of cougars drops to 3,000 or less, as determined by surveys, then hunting will cease to occur.
In 1994, Oregon citizens voted to ban the use of hounds to hunt cougars. A law signed on June 27th, 2007 brought back the use of hounds in a limited form. The new law permits the agency to train citizens to act as “agents” on its behalf, and to use their hounds to hunt cougars.
The goal of this new law (in conjunction with Oregon’s 2006 Cougar Management Plan) is to target cougars that might attack people or livestock. Scientists say the new law may have the opposite of its intended effect. High levels of hunting pressure may actually lead to more cougars and more complaints about problem animals.
In recent years, Oregon has been selling over 40,000 cougar tags annually. More deer and elk hunters have been targeting cougars because Oregon offers a “sports pack” license, which grants tags for black bear, a general cougar tag, one elk, one deer, upland game bird validation, Oregon waterfowl validation, spring turkey and combined angling harvest tag for $130. So, while hounds may effectively be banned, cougar harvest has has reached record highs in recent years.
As of early 2015, ODFW officials believe there are no less than 6,000 cats in the state, and that the population is rapidly increasing. In response, ODFW raised the statewide hunting quota from 770 to 970. At the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, numerous bills were introduced into the state senate and house to give individual counties the authority to hunt cougars with hounds. If passed into law, these bills would effectively overturn the state law that bans hound hunting.
Cougar hunting is open year-round. The use of hounds to pursue cougars is prohibited.
The 2015 quota was raised to 970 cats due to concerns that the cougar population is growing and conflicts are increasing. From 2006 to 2014, the quota was set at 777, but was never met. In recent years, cougar harvest has dropped off, an indication that the population may actually be in decline.