The big news for wildlife (or anti-wildlife, depending on your perspective) legislation is the Oregon House passed House Bill 2624 on April 23. This bill, which now goes to the Senate, would allow counties to opt out of the statewide prohibition against hunting cougars with hounds passed by voter initiative in 1994. It would also allow bears to be hunted with hounds as well as hunted using bait to attract them. Opting out would be by a county initiative brought to the voters by collecting enough signatures to put a measure on a ballot or by referral to the voters from a county commissioner.
HB 2390, which repeals the sunset clause in legislation authorizing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to hire agents to hunt cougars and bears with dogs for management purposes, also passed the House on March 19 and now goes to the Senate.
Senate Bill 428, which would allow hunting cougars with dogs during the last three months of the year in cougar zones where the annual quota has not been reached, HB 3395 that would require ODFW to create a pilot program allowing hunters to use dogs for hunting cougars and HB 2324 that would set up an account the public could donate to for livestock safety and wildlife protection programs have not yet advanced out of committee.
SB 197, pushed by the Oregon Cattleman’s Association, which would expand the circumstances in which they could kill wolves, is still in committee and environmentalists and livestock interests are reported to be working out compromise language. HB 3437 that would have required most future appointees to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to have a hunting or fishing license for the previous five years is said to be dead.