Group: Set cougar free
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole Daily
January 27, 2012
A mother cougar that wildlife managers captured Monday for killing deer near homes at the mouth of Cache Creek should be released, conservationists said Thursday.
Releasing the cat would help ensure the survival of her two roughly 7-month-old kittens, which remain free, Cougar Fund Development Director Lisa Rullman said. She made her comments in a letter dated Wednesday addressed to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
“This cougar is a known mother with two young, dependent kittens,” Rullman wrote. “On behalf of the Cougar Fund and our constituents, I call on you to return the mother cougar to where she was trapped — the home range where her kittens were left behind.”
Instead of capturing the cats, Wyoming Game and Fish Department personnel should coordinate with the Bridger-Teton National Forest to close the Cache Creek area until the cats have moved on, Rullman said.
“[W]hy not take a more measured, scientific approach, including issuing appropriate warning signs and working with the Forest Service to close the area to human activity and recreation,” Rullman asked in the letter. “When Game Creek was temporarily closed a number of years ago due to mountain lion activity, the community supported it. Was this even considered?”
Releasing the female cougar back into the Cache Creek drainage is not a safe option, said Mark Gocke, spokesman for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
“We tried everything that we knew of to scare them out of that residential area,” Gocke said. “It was clear to us that they were habituated to that area.”
Wyoming Game and Fish wildlife managers, Cougar Fund representatives and others have speculated that the cats were drawn to the residential area near Cache Creek because some residents have fed deer there in recent years.
Teton County Land Development Regulations state that feeding wildlife is prohibited because it “attracts ungulates to residential areas, which poses a significant threat to human safety and domestic pets” and “attracts large predators to residential areas, which poses a significant threat to human life or domestic pets.”
The situation is unfortunate “because residents in Cache Creek and East Jackson have been known for years to feed deer,” Cougar Fund officials said in a statement. “This unnatural concentration of deer most likely lured the cats to the residential area.”
Gocke agreed that deer feed is a problem.
“It’s a lesson of what can happen when you congregate these deer,” he said. “We have to be responsible as private citizens. Bears and moose can be dangerous as well. All of a sudden it becomes a public safety issue.”
Game and Fish wildlife managers still hope to reunite the family.
“Our plans haven’t changed,” Gocke said. “We’re still working hard to capture those young cats.
“We made an effort today, and we plan to reset the live traps tonight,” he said Thursday. “The snow conditions just aren’t conducive to catching these cats with dogs right now.”
One method of catching cougars is to tree them with hunting dogs and then tranquilize them. Officials have said the cats would be relocated to the Lander area.