Without the use of trained hounds, hunting success for taking cougars could drop more than 90 percent, Washington Wildlife Department officials say.
Where big game populations are healthy, increases in cougars would not be in serious trouble, even though each adult lion kills 45-50 big-game animals year.
The most serious impact could be in areas where big-game species are struggling.
Documented examples include:
Cougars are the leading cause of deaths among endangered mountain caribou in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains.
Of the 60 caribou trapped in British Columbia and relocated to bolster the Selkirk herd, only about a dozen remain.
“I think there’s enough habitat left in the Selkirks for caribou to expand,” said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department researcher who monitors the caribou weekly.
But after surveys last year, he said, “The mountain lions are starting to ding away at the caribou and the mortality rate is exceeding the birth rate.”
Habitat changes combined with recent drought and growing cougar and bear populations are major factors in the decline of elk herds in the Blue Mountains.
A five-year study involving nearly 200 elk calves that had been captured and fitted with radio collars shows that bears and cougars take 35-50 percent of each year’s crop of elk calves.
Biologists studying deer deaths near Bishop, Calif., say the deer herd has fallen from 5,500 to fewer than 1,000 adults in the past eight years.
Research shows 51 percent of the deaths coming from mountain lion kills, 22 percent from coyote kills, 14 percent from road kills, 7 percent from hunting, and 6 percent from other factors.
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