INFLUENCE OF HUNTING PRESSURE ON COUGAR-HUMAN CONFLICT IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

Over harvesting and persecution of top predators resulting from conflict with humans are some of the major causes of predator declines. Although little is known about the interplay between these two causes of predator mortality, hunting continues to be used widely to minimize predator-human conflict, under the premise that it would decrease conflict incidence. If lethal control such as through hunting is to facilitate coexistence between wildlife and humans, control must minimize the impact of wildlife on humans and their livelihoods and/or increase tolerance of the public towards wildlife, without compromising wildlife populations. When applied to BC’s cougar populations, management through hunting should decrease the incidence of cougar-human conflict and/or increase public acceptance of cougars without negatively affecting cougar populations.

Using a long-track record of human-caused cougar mortality, we are testing whether management through hunting influences the incidence of cougar-human conflict by 1) assessing if cougars killed by hunters and those that came into conflict with people were of similar size, 2) investigating whether the long history of trophy harvest and ‘problem’ animal control is associated with younger cougar populations, 3) understanding the relationship between hunting pressure and conflict incidence and 4) assessing trends in hunting and conflict incidence over time.