A bill that’s cleared a committee in the Iowa Senate seeks new protections for black bears and cougars in Iowa. Senator Dennis Black, a Democrat from Grinnell, says the bill would give Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials the authority to decide if there should be an open season on cougars, which some people call mountain lions, and black bears.
"We have so few bear in Iowa. I’ve been a conservation officer for 35 years. I’ve never seen one. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard of only two," Black says. "As it relates to cougar, I’ve seen two. Both of them were dead. Neither of them had front claws." Black says to him, that indicates both had been pets.
"They’re such cute little kittens. People buy them and then when they start to get older, they get a little nasty and so people turn them loose," Black says. Many contend bears and mountain lions, or cougars, pose a substantial threat to humans. Senator Black, though, rejects that. "In the history of Iowa, no one has been killed by a bear or a cougar," Black claims.
Black says the animals mostly try to avoid humans, and he says Iowans who take a shot at a bear or a cougar had better use a high-powered gun and ammunition. "Let’s say a farmer comes out of the house in the morning and a cougar is killing a calf, he has the right to go in the house and get the gun and shoot the cougar," Black says. "However, having grown up in the west around bear and cougar, I can guarantee you they’d better have the right gun and the right shell."
The bill has been placed on the list of bills that’re eligible for debate in the full 50-member Iowa Senate. State officials currently have the authority to set hunting and trapping seasons for beaver, badgers, mink, otters, muskrats, raccoons, skunk, opossums, weasels, coyotes, bobcats, wolves, groundhogs and fox. That means it is illegal to shoot or trap those animals unless the hunting is done during an established hunting season for the animals.