Cougar Population Plummets
Hunting took a huge toll recently on the cougar population straddling the international border between BC’s Kootenay region and northern portions of Idaho and Washington states. Between 1998 and 2003 the average density of cougars in the area dropped from 1.47 to 0.85 animals per 100 km². Among the radio-collared cougars that died, 92% were killed by hunters.
Ironically, hunting intensified partially in response to a dramatic increase in conflicts between cougars and people that were reported in Washington state. The rash of incidents has led many to believe that cougars are proliferating. This study finds, though, that the population density in 1998 was already about half that reported for cougars in other areas of BC and Idaho.
Researchers conclude that the increase in conflicts is likely a consequence of a cougar population in rapid decline. Heavy hunting has created a population age structure with relatively few animals older than three years. It is mainly young cougars that get into trouble with people, and immature animals predominate in this area. The researchers recommend that wildlife managers from BC, Washington and Idaho collaborate in preserving these cougars by reducing hunting, especially of adult females.
Catherine M.S. Lambert, Robert B. Wielgus, Hugh S. Robinson, Donald D. Katnik, Hilary S. Cruickshank, Ross Clarke and Jon Almack. 2006. Cougar Population Dynamics and Viability in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Wildlife Management. 70(1): 246-254.