Approximately half of Oregon state is considered cougar habitat.
The adaptable felines are able to survive in much of the state's forested regions.
Keep in mind that although cougars are physically capable of living in these places (based on geographical, vegetative and prey species characteristics), it does not mean they necessarily do. Fragmentation, sport hunting practices, and intolerant communities can wipe out cougars from any area. For more information about where cougar populations actually live, check out our Science tab.
The state of Oregon encompasses 95,996 square miles of land. Of this, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) claim that 71,997 square miles, or 75 percent of the state, is suitable cougar habitat.
However, a review by MLF researchers of a 2001 GAP analysis habitat map could only identify approximately 49,344 square miles or roughly 51 percent of the state as viable cougar habitat. The difference between the two numbers could be significant in accurately determining Oregon's cougar population.
In 1996, two years after the passage of Measure 18, ODFW placed the state's cougar population at approximately 3,000 to 3,300 animals. Ten years later, despite larger than ever mortalities caused by ODFW's Post-Measure 18 sport hunting policies, the Department ramped the population estimate up to 5,000 cougars. They justified this boost by claiming that "Local cougar population densities exceed any documented in North America."(1) As of April, 2011 ODFW's website posted an estimate of more than 5,700 cougars residing in Oregon, and some hound-hunting proponents are even claiming the cougar population in Oregon has reached the 7,000 level.
It is possible that this disturbing trend of ever-increasing cougar population estimates has more to do with justifying policy decisions to kill more cougars than reliable scientific data.