The biggest news this week is the start of election season and a wilderness hunt for a cougar.
Last week, state trackers tracked and killed a cougar they suspect fatally mauled Gresham hiker Diana Bober in Mount Hood National Forest in August. Bober's death has renewed debate about how state officials should handle populations of wild animals living in close proximity to people.
Longtime Portlanders might see the headlines and feel a twinge of déjà vu.
Two decades ago, the Oregon ballot asked voters a question: Should hunters be allowed to track and kill cougars with hounds? In 1994, Measure 18 effectively banned using dogs in cougar hunts. Just two years later, in 1996, Measure 34 tried to reverse the ban.
WW, in typical contrarian fashion, advised voters to vote no on both.
"Gulp! Is this really happening?" WW asked in our October 1994 election issue. "Forgive us, Smokey. Forgive us, Simba. This newspaper is siding with the Elmer Fudds and Yosemite Sams of the world and opposing Measure 18."
Our justification: While hunting cougars with dogs may seem cruel, "hunters can plead that there's no other way to hunt the animals."
The measure passed in spite of this newspaper.
Two years later, proponents said cougar populations were growing so fast they needed the dogs back—plus a removal of other hunting restrictions.
Again, WW endorsed voting against the measure—and ran a cover illustration of a cougar with a gun to its head.
"It's premature to overturn a ban that's only 2 years old," we wrote. "Ranchers and rangers can still hunt 'problem' cougars with dogs, if necessary. This measure is not about survival. It's about sport."
Measure 34 failed. Hunting cougars with dogs is still illegal. And the number of cougars in the state has rapidly increased. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife figures show the state was home to 3,114 mountain lions in 1994. That number has doubled to 6,643 as of last year.
Between 2011 and 2018, complaints about cougars in the Willamette Valley tripled, the Salem Statesman Journal reports. Translation: Cougars are getting too comfortable around humans. Two notable complaints, which led to euthanizations, resulted from a cougar near The Dalles entering a hotel room through a wall vent and another strolling through Silverton's Oregon Garden.
Bober's death, however, marks the first-ever occurrence of fatal cougar attack in the wild in Oregon. On Sept. 14, ODFW shot the cougar it strongly believes killed Bober. The animal's DNA is currently being tested for a match at a forensics lab in Ashland.
Correction: This article incorrectly stated that the Oregon cougar population had tripled since 1994. It has doubled.