I am writing in regards to an article printed in the Oct. 4th edition of the BME. County Judge Candidate Mark Webb made a statement that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has authority to manage wildlife and that cougars fall under that designation. I would like to publicly disagree with Mr. Webb. Under the statutes of this state, any federal, state or county agent, while in the capacity of his official duties can use dogs to pursue cougars and bears. This law does not give the authority just to ODFW.
I would like to go on the record to say that the current Board of Commissioners for Grant County had been approached about an emergency declaration to deal with the cougar complaints in Grant County. The County Court opted to give the State of Oregon (ODFW and/or Oregon State Police (OSP)) an opportunity to deal with complaints generated by the public regarding cougars. There was no emergency declaration.
Here we are nearly two years later. Numerous cougar complaints have been made where problem cats have caused damage to personal property, sightings in and on public school grounds, within city limits, chasing deer through towns, on the football field, killing deer within city limits, sightings in the back yards of residences in town and out in the rural areas, and the list goes on.
To this very day, there is only once that I have knowledge of that either the ODFW or OSP have actually called for dogs to deal with these complaints. This was done during the first week of the 2006 general deer season above Prairie City. The news release said that the cougar had killed a deer within 15 feet of the residence.
I know that with this state law, I would be in compliance if I were to call upon private citizens who own hounds that are trained. The designated person(s) would be deputized and be given authority to pursue problem cougars and bears as a county agent. This could be done with no expense to taxpayers. These cats and bears would be subject to being turned over to the ODFW if they were taken under this statute. There is no need for an emergency declaration and there is no need for the endorsement of the county court. The sheriff receives his authority from the state law. Never, have I ever, talked of this issue being done as a game management tool. That is not my job.
This will be done as a public safety concern. A concern that if we don't deal with at the local level is eventually going to get someone killed or seriously injured. We have, in my opinion, given the State of Oregon more than ample time to deal with these complaints. When calls were received of cougar sightings, I know first hand that complaints were minimized. It took a person with a "biologist" title to actually see the cougar standing in its tracks to confirm whether it was a cougar or not. Cougar hair removed from a barbed wire fence was sent to a lab and came back as identified as not being cougar hair. The citizens that took the time to call were depending upon a government agency for a service. What have they received so far?
I am of the opinion, Grant County needs to take care of Grant County. Waiting for the State of Oregon or the federal government to take care of us isn't going to take care of this issue.
Remember Mr. Webb, our economy is in a downward spiral and about to crash. Our economy can't take too many more hits on the chin. Neither can our local government with the schools included. Our timber industry and cattle industry are being threatened at every turn. Not wanting to cry wolf, but they are coming too. Our county is becoming an economy based on fire suppression. Seasonal at best, with the remainder of the year being unemployed. Families who are dependent upon welfare and government handouts when they should be earning a decent living off the lands that belong to the people. Only if there were jobs to be had.
Our economy and local businesses don't solely depend on locals for a living. The Dale Store and the Meadowbrook Store to name two, do not and cannot depend on the locals to carry them through the year. Deer and elk hunters as well as other sportsmen contribute significantly. What are they going to do when our deer and elk herds have fallen prey to the bears, cougars, wolf, coyotes, etc.... Become subsidized? I doubt it.
This county desperately needs a leader who is for the citizens of this county, the timber industry and the cattle industry. This is what this county is founded on. How many more county judges, how many more years of compromising our cultural heritage away can we afford before we are out of existence? I know when I receive my ballot, I will be voting for Dave Traylor for County Judge.
Glenn E. Palmer
Grant County Sheriff