Hunting license program targets predators
Oregon's 242,000 hunters will be asked whether they want to donate to local predator-control programs in Jackson County and elsewhere when they buy their hunting licenses and tags.
The Oregon Legislature this summer passed a bill requiring the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to solicit donations from hunters for the program typically used to kill animals such as bears and cougars when they cause livestock damage or are considered risks to human safety.
The programs, including Jackson County's, primarily are run through partnerships with the federal Wildlife Services agency.
Under the new program, each time a hunter buys a license or permit, they will be asked to donate anywhere from $2 to $100 to the Wildlife Conservation Fund. The money will be divided equally among the 26 counties that have agreements with Wildlife Services to control predators.
Donations tied to tags for specific wildlife-management units will go toward the county or counties where those units are located, said Michelle Dennehy, ODFW's Wildlife Division spokeswoman.
The first $45,000 will be kept by ODFW to pay for upgrades to its online licensing systems, Dennehy said.
Those upgrades have been completed and the system went live this week, she said.
Dave Williams, who oversees Wildlife Services activities in Oregon, said there are no projected estimates about how much money the program might generate.
"The potential is there to help with the cost of predation management," Williams said.
Jackson County has an agreement with Wildlife Services in which an agent works an average of 64 hours in the county every two weeks to help residents who experience livestock damage or who fear public-safety threats from predators.
The county paid $43,896 for the current one-year contract, which expires in June. The total contract costs $66,353.69, with the balance coming from state and federal departments of agriculture and ODFW.
County Administrator Danny Jordan said he has not budgeted any donations because no one knows what the program will generate.
Several wildlife species can fall under Wildlife Services activities, including feral swine, rodents, beavers, bobcats, muskrats, otters, foxes, bears, cougars and wolves. Special rules guide any wolf killings, which are a special-status game mammal and considered endangered in Oregon.
Jackson County's part-time agent, Cricket Peyton, responded to 374 complaints in the 12-month period ending last October, with about half involving livestock damage complaints, said Michael Burrell, the Wildlife Services district supervisor in Roseburg.
On average, Peyton kills about a dozen bears, six to 10 cougars and about 50 coyotes annually following damage complaints, Burrell said.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.