The Associated Press

MEDFORD, Ore. State officials say they made a big mistake in their study of complaints in Jackson County: An agent killed three cougars 2.5 miles outside the boundaries of the study area.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered the mistake Friday when biologists were plotting the locations of the cougar killings on a map. On Monday the agency suspended trapping and killing cougars as part of the study.

andquot;We messed up, we're going to let people know we messed up, and we'll take steps to correct it,andquot; Wildlife Division Administrator Ron Anglin said.

Conservationists who had opposed the study from the beginning as flawed science designed to appease politicians and landowners unhappy with predators said the effort should be suspended.

andquot;It's an absolute outrage,andquot; said Sally Mackler, the wildlife chair of the Oregon Group Sierra Club. andquot;The plan itself was an insult. On top of that, we have a state agency that can't even follow its own flawed plan.andquot;

The agency is killing two dozen cougars in Jackson County to see if that will reduce the number of complaints about cougars killing livestock and pets.

Anglin said the killings will be incorporated into the study because the home ranges of the two females and one male killed on a ranch in the Lake Creek area in late February probably included part of the 963-square-mile study area.

The target area will be amended to include the area where the cougars were shot.

Russ Stauff, Rogue Watershed manager for the department, said local biologists believed the ranch was part of the study area and were shocked when, after creating the first map of the study area, they discovered the three cougar killings were outside the boundary.

Anglin declined to say whether anyone would be disciplined.

Trapping will likely resume next week, he said.