Cougar hunters in Colorado denied electronic aids | AspenTimes.com

Cougar hunters in Colorado denied electronic aids

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

FILE - This file image provided April 11, 2006 by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a cougar in the wild. Cougar hunters in Colorado have lost their fight to use electronic predator-call aids. The Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously on Nov. 11, 2011 to maintain the state's prohibition on use of electronic calls in hunting any species (AP Photo/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, File)

DENVER – Cougar hunters in Colorado lost their fight to use electronic predator-call aids Friday when state wildlife officials affirmed a ban on hunters using the devices.

The 14-member Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously Friday to maintain the state’s prohibition on use of electronic calls in hunting any species, The Denver Post reported.

Predator-call devices are programmed to emit sounds that mimic animals in distress to attract their predators. They’re used by hunters, as well as by wildlife photographers.

Friday’s decision came after complaints that the electronic devices could lead to more accidental killings of female cougars with cubs.

“We try to manage the population to protect the females because they are the breeding animals that ensure the population will be sustained,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Theo Stein.

Conservationists argued the devices violate fair-chase principles.

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Luring cougars with electronic calls “is unfair and unethical,” said Wendy Keefover, director of carnivore programs for WildEarth Guardians, who has campaigned for a decade on behalf of big cats.

Allowing use of the devices would be “like waging war on animals that do not have guns and all these electronic devices,” Keefover said. “They have to live by their wits while we have these devices that facilitate killing.”

In the early 20th century, cougars were hunted nearly to extinction. But in Colorado they rebounded. State biologists estimate there are 3,500 to 4,500 cougars statewide.

State wildlife managers recently raised the annual hunting limit to 618 from 592. Since 1980, the annual number of cougars killed legally by hunters in Colorado has increased to 374 from 80. State researchers currently are looking into the impact of hunting.

Since 2007, cougar hunters have been required to take online courses on how to distinguish between males and females. Since then, the percentage of cougars killed that were female has decreased to around 36 percent from 43 percent.

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