California laws stopped sport hunting for cougars in 1972, but have subsequently allowed state officials to kill or issue permits to shoot cougars causing harm to people, livestock and pets.
The number of permits to control cougar problems has steadily increased from about 30 in the early 1970s to 331 last year - more than ever had been killed in a season by sport hunters.
The state gets no revenue from these permits as it would under a recreational hunting system.
Rural communities get no economic benefit, either. No hunters come to stay in motels. Hound outfitters cannot make a living.
The meat and hides are wasted instead of being taken to meat processors and taxidermists.
While no cougar attacks on humans were confirmed in the 75 years from 1910 through 1985, California officials have heard numerous reports of cougars threatening humans, said California Fish and Game Department spokeswoman Lorna Bernard in Sacrament.
The agency has verified 10 attacks on humans in the past 10 years, she said. Two people died in those attacks and six were injured.
In 1994 alone, 10 cougars were killed after they threatened or attacked people, she said. The agency verified the deaths of another 111 cougars under damage-control permits. No estimate has been made of how many nuisance cougars were simply shot and left to rot.
“The increase in mountain lion attacks on humans since 1990 is the result of a large, widespread lion population coming in contact with a large expanding human population, said Terry Mansfield, California Fish and Game Department wildlife management division chief.
Mansfield said the department needs more options to cull growing lion populations before incidents occur, especially in areas where cougar incidents are common.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Confirmed mountain lion damage incidents in California
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: VOTERS DECIDE Complicated wildlife management issues will be decided by a simple popular vote on Nov. 5. In Idaho, Proposition 2 would eliminate the spring hunting season for black bears and prohibit the use of bait and hounds to hunt bears. In Washington, Initiative 655 would prohibit the use of bait or hounds for hunting cougars, bears and bobcats.