Oregon lawmakers have called for a public hearing on the controversial killing last month of a juvenile bobcat after it had entered a private school in Eugene.
The House Natural Resources Committee hearing, set for Wednesday at the Capitol building, will focus on the decisions that led to an Oregon State Police trooper's use of "blunt force trauma" to kill the animal, which wildlife advocates contend was not a threat.
“There is no excuse for such an inhumane action” Kelly Peterson, Oregon senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), said in a statement, “We implore ODFW to listen to the intense backlash it’s received and adopt a policy prioritizing nonlethal responses to wildlife conflicts.” ODFW, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, was consulted before the animal was killed, the organization said in a statement.
Even before the public learned the bobcat had been killed by blunt force trauma, ODFW was facing a backlash. An earlier HSUS statement called killing the bobcat "the latest of many examples of a lethal overreaction by ODFW." The Oregon agency has come under fire for euthanizing animals in the past.
A second juvenile bobcat, thought to be a sibling of the first one, was captured at the school, relocated, and released. ODFW said that cat was not deemed a threat because, unlike the first, it never entered the school building.
Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife maintain that killing the animal with blunt-force trauma was the safest and most humane way to kill the animal under those circumstances. They claim the 2013 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines lists blunt force trauma as a humane option for euthanasia. But those guidelines also state that it should only be used for animals with thin, small craniums, like newborn laboratory mice. Those who euthanize in this way must be "properly trained" to ensure death is instantaneous.
Even then, it should only be used as a last resort — in part because people tasked with killing animals this way “often find it displeasing and soon become fatigued.” The AVMA also notes that, as ODFW has learned, killing animals this way has “aesthetic implications.”
In a letter, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association condemned the killing, noting that a veterinarian should have been consulted, and that "a wild animal exhibiting what your officer deemed abnormal behavior is a rabies suspect." Rabies can be transmitted by exposure to brain matter, so blunt-force trauma to the head is one of the worst ways to kill a rabid animal. The letter also says that it's very possible the cat was acting normally and the state trooper couldn't tell.
Lawmakers hope the hearing will answer some of the questions over the decision to kill the bobcat and the way it was killed. Several media outlets and the Eugene-based wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense have asked what was used to kill the bobcat. None have received an answer.
Both bobcats were found at Oak Hill School, which is located in the south Eugene hills and is surrounded by forest. According to a post on its Facebook page, Oak Hill was under the impression that the cats would just be relocated, not killed.
According to The Oregonian, Oak Hill students placed a picture of the bobcat in their annual Dia de los Muertos display.