MEDFORD – An increase in the statewide cougar will be included in the 2015 Oregon Big Game Regulations, adopted last week by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

At its meeting Friday in Medford, the commission also discussed plans for delisting wolves in part of Oregon, and set the recruitment process to replace Roy Elicker, the current agency director who recently took a job with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Major changes in the 2015 game regulations will increase the cougar quota to 970, up from 770. The change is due to growth in cougar populations, public safety issues and low elk and deer numbers in some areas.

The commission also approved modifications to archery season regulations as a result of a recent advisory committee review. The changes:

• Adding three controlled archery deer hunts in Walla Walla, Mount Emily and Wenaha units, and removal of the requirement to have a controlled elk archery tag to deer hunt. The tag will also be valid during the general archery season.

• Adding a new November controlled archery white-tailed deer hunt in the Wenaha unit.

• Severing the link between archery deer and elk tags in Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Maury, and Warner units, meaning an archery elk tag will no longer be required to hunt deer.

• Adding new Maury and Warner unit controlled archery elk hunts. Tags will also be valid during the general archery season.

• Returning Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, and Steens Mountain units to the general archery deer season.

The Commission turned down a staff recommendation to add a new spring bear hunt in Southwest Oregon.

The Commission got a briefing on potential delisting of wolves in Eastern Oregon from the state Endangered Species Act.

The Oregon Wolf Plan, adopted in 2005, calls for considering delisting when Eastern Oregon has four breeding pairs for three consecutive years.

Staff has documented at least four packs reproducing in the previous two consecutive years. If that trend continues, the delisting process would begin in April 2015.

Before delisting could occur, the Commission must determine that wolf populations in Eastern Oregon are not likely to become endangered, existing state and federal regulations are adequate to protect wolves, and that other criteria are met.

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