Articles, opinions, and editorials about mountain lions and the Mountain Lion Foundation.
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Kitten Poacher Should Lose License to Hunt for Life! (3/13/2016)
Stephen Trabakoulos, the young man who "harvested" a three-month old female mountain lion kitten in February 2016 took a guilty plea and was sentenced in South Dakota this week. His case is a good example of how low penalties encourage wildlife crimes.
The investigation found that Trabakoulos had not lived in South Dakota long enough to qualify for a hunting license. For this, a Rapid City judge fined Trabakoulos $170.
A Deadwood, South Dakota judge fined Trabakoulos $484 for failing to properly tag killed wildlife. A 10 day jail sentence was dropped. His license to hunt was suspended for one year.
The maximum penalties for the charge of class one misdemeanor of improper tagging are fines to $1,000, one year in jail and loss of hunting privileges for a year. The fines clearly would not even cover the state and county costs for citing, investigating and prosecuting the crime.
Loss of hunting privileges for just a year?
Why not allow South Dakota judges to impose sentences for restriction of hunting privileges for a much longer period of time?
Spotted and weighing in at only 14 pounds, the kitten was clearly not a legal target under South Dakota law. See Mountain Lion Foundation's original story on the incident.
On December 30, 2015, Trabakoulos posted this on Facebook: "Tomorrow I'm going to apply for a mountain lion tag, what caliber do y'all suggest. I'm not sure if I want to take the 30-30 or 7mm-08 or 300win mag. Or maybe even 7.62x39." If he had paid even a fraction of the amount of attention to the regulations for hunting lions in South Dakota, he might never have killed a kitten. Or perhaps he knew and just didn't care.
And he's not alone. A late 2015 checkpoint conducted by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department on Interstate 90 found 147 violations among 1,253 hunters checked. That's one in ten, a level that wouldn't be tolerated in other types of crime. And it's level of rulebreaking that wouldn't be allowed in any other "sport".
In a January 2016 article in Outdoor Forum titled Wildlife Crime and Punishment: Why SD needs stiffer fines for trespassing and poaching South Dakota hunting columnist Dana Rogers concluded that "Obviously, nobody is perfect, and mistakes can happen during a hunt. I'm not suggesting we purport or pass laws that are insurmountable for lower-level violations, but if the reward of the illegal activity can be favorably weighed against the risk to these offenders - as is the current case in South Dakota - only the wildlife and legal, ethical hunters pay."
One of Stephen Trabakoulos' many gun-related posts on Instagram.
It's not just happening in the wild west. Pennsylvania Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Protection Director Richard Palmer stated in testimony for House Bill 2205, "The causes of poaching vary, but the myth that most poachers are committing their offenses to provide food is in reality not even a fraction of a percentage of all cases prosecuted. Often, modern poaching is done by criminals driving $30,000 vehicles, using expensive night-vision technology, illegal silencers on the firearms, and often military-style rifles."
We are writing to South Dakota legislators to urge increased penalties for wildlife crimes, and you can help!
What YOU Can Do
If you live in South Dakota, or any other state with laughably low penalties for wildlife crime, contact your local state representative and encourage them to increase the penalties and fines for serious wildlife violations.
You can follow the number of mountain lions killed in South Dakota at Mountain Lion Mortality Table, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
(Article #1693) To read the actual news story click here...
Hollywood Lion Suspected of Preying on Koala (3/10/2016)
Celebrities are known for their unusual diets and trying exotic foods. Apparently P-22, California's Hollywood Lion, is no different. On Wednesday night, the lion wound up in the Los Angeles Zoo and is suspected of killing a koala.
Perhaps the oddest fact about this situation is not the koala, but that P-22 is so well-loved that he is unlikely to be killed for preying on a zoo animal. Many other lions believed to have injured domestic animals are killed under depredation permits.
At least 256 lions were targeted to be killed under California depredation permits in 2015, and at least 107 were killed as a result.
Remember that P-22 is a celebrity lion who has been treated quite differently than most wild lions since the day he was discovered. He is protected by public opinion, not true for lions in other places, even in California. While a mountain lion's primary prey is deer, the cats are opportunistic hunters, and will eat all kinds of animals, from coyotes to porcupines.
At some point during a lion's life, the odds are he'll come upon a domestic animal. The majority of pet and livestock owners living in lion habitat do not take the necessary steps to protect their animals from wild predators. Unprotected pets and livestock are an easy meal for a hungry lion. But since the cats are adapted to hunting deer and other small wild mammals, conflicts with domestic animals remain relatively rare.
It's like your friend who eats healthy and rarely indulges in greasy fast food. But every once in a while after a long day and not eating, she won't say no to the plate of hot french fries if they're already on the table. It's not a regular occurrence, but survival instincts tell us to eat whatever is available rather than starve.
P-22 has been living in Griffith Park since 2012. He contracted mange, has been spotted on security cameras near homes at night, and even napped under a house which startled maintenance workers, but he has managed to stay out of trouble despite living within miles of ten million people and their pets.
Part of his ability to stay out of trouble is because southern California residents have been taught a lot about their local lions and have learned to value them, and part is because P-22 is included in a study where researchers can step in when trouble looms. For example, few lions not part of a research study would have been treated for mange.
It's important to remember that most California mountain lions are in serious trouble, and don't have some of the advantages of P-22 and his family in the Santa Monica Mountains.
All of the mountain lion studies currently under way in California have found high incidence of poisons from rodenticides, heavy losses to road kill, and losses on depredation permits, for their collared research lions. Some have found anomalies like kinked tails which point to significant isolation of populations and a diminishing genetic pool.
Los Angeles Zoo staff spotted P-22 on security cameras earlier this year, but they haven't been able to figure out how the large cat is entering and leaving the property. The lion was spotted on camera the night the koala went missing. The marsupial was later found about 400 yards away and had succumbed to its injuries.
It is often very difficult to tell whether a mountain lion was in fact responsible for a kill. Although there are tell-tale signs, mountain lion presence is not conclusive. We have learned in the past couple of decades that lions scavenge the kills of other animals, and even scavenge animals that died of natural causes.
City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell believes this incident highlights the need to move P-22 to a "more remote wild area where he has adequate space to roam without the possibility of human interaction." Though in a state with roughly 40 million people, it's not clear where this human-less space is located.
Others think this is an opportunity to remind LA residents and animal parks how to coexist with wild neighbors. The zoo's enclosures should be lion-proofed rather than send the message that native animals should be displaced for our convenience. The LA Zoo seems to agree, with its director John Lewis commenting to NBC news, "There's a lot of native wildlife in this area. This is their home. So we'll learn to adapt to P-22 just like he's learned to adapt to us."
Kate Kuykendall of the National Park Service added, "This is not a situation where we can get rid of the native wildlife and not expect this to happen again."
Countless studies have shown that removing a mountain lion only opens up the territory for multiple younger, inexperienced lions to move in. Encounters and conflicts can actually increase after a lion is removed. P-22 has been a pretty good neighbor and the best way to prevent any future incidents is to encourage him to stay near deer herds and avoid looking for food near human-occupied areas. This means:
Additional information can be found in these sections of our website:
Stay Safe Hiking and Biking - www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectstaysafe.asp
Protecting Pets - http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectpets.asp
Protecting Livestock - http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectlivestock.asp
Safety During a Lion Encounter - http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectencounters.asp
VIEW NEWS COVERAGE BY NBC4 IN LOS ANGELES
We are sending a thank you letter to Los Angeles Zoo director John Lewis thanking him for not requesting a permit to kill the lion, and for disagreeing with those who want to see P-22 moved out of Griffith Park.
Lewis' desire to protect the zoo's animals while coexisting with local native wildlife sets a great example for other animal parks to follow.
MLF is also offering our services to help secure animal enclosures from wild predators and assist with community education programs.
What YOU Can Do
Send a thank you letter to the zoo for not wanting P-22 killed or moved from his home in Griffith Park. Encourage them to consider updating their protection practices for all the zoo's animals and bring smaller critters indoors at night.
Los Angeles Zoo
Attn: Director John Lewis
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Please also take some time to learn more about California's depredation laws and ways to reduce conflicts. Mountain lions are struggling, especially in southern California, and changes to human behavior can make a world of difference to their chances for long term survival.
(Article #1691) To read the actual news story click here...
Colorado's March 2016 Commission Meeting (3/9/2016)
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission — the entity that oversees the State's wildlife agency — is holding its monthly meeting March 9-10, 2016 at Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Hunter Education Building in Denver.
While many of the issues being considered could indirectly impact mountain lions, topics of interest directly related to the species include agenda items:
You can view all the agenda items and listen live to the meeting here:
If you live in the Denver area, please consider attending in person:
CPW Hunter Education Building
Denver CO 80216
Mountain lions don't stay within state borders, so no matter where you live, Colorado's policies impact YOUR mountain lions. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and join our mailing list to learn more about the issues and how to have your voice heard at state commission meetings and in the Legislature.
(Article #1690) To read the actual news story click here...
Lion Protection Bill Heads to Committee (2/23/2016)
The bill to stop mountain lion hunting in Nebraska (LB 961) was heard by the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, February 25. It was not voted on and remains stuck in this committee.
We need lots of help in just a little bit of time! Please contact the committee members (email addresses and phone numbers below), and urge them to vote in favor of Legislative Bill 961.
Introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers, LB 961 is a third attempt at critical legislation to prohibit mountain lion sport hunting in Nebraska.
Last year's version of this bill was killed by the same committee, and Chairperson Senator Ken Schilz commented Nebraska Game and Parks Commission needs to be able to use hunting as a tool to control wildlife. Other committee members said that if the legislature banned the hunting of mountain lions, they may be pressured to outlaw the hunting of other species in the future.
"There is no need or justification whatsoever to hunt these animals," Senator Chambers has remarked about mountain lions. "It's cruelty. It's barbaric. I will do what I can to stop it."
To help LB 961 pass through the Natural Resources Committee, the public needs to speak up in support of mountain lion protection. There are very few lions in small regions of Nebraska and the species could easily be wiped out before ever fully reestablishing a population in the state.
If you don't want to see another lion killed for fun in Nebraska, please take a moment to share your perspective.
Contact the Nebraska Natural Resources Committee:
Sen. Ken Schilz, Chairperson - firstname.lastname@example.org - (402) 471-2616
Sen. Curt Friesen - email@example.com - (402) 471-2630
Sen. Dan Hughes - firstname.lastname@example.org - (402) 471-2805
Sen. Jerry Johnson - email@example.com - (402) 471-2719
Sen. Rick Kolowski - firstname.lastname@example.org - (402) 471-2327
Sen. Brett Lindstrom - email@example.com - (402) 471-2618
Sen. John McCollister - firstname.lastname@example.org - (402) 471-2622
Sen. David Schnoor - email@example.com - (402) 471-2625
What to Say:
Dear Natural Resources Committee,
I am writing to you today in support of LB 961. Please include my letter in the official record.
Please also cc us on your emails (firstname.lastname@example.org) or send a quick note to let us know you telephoned the committee members.
Thank you so much. Together, we can protect America's lion.
(Article #1689) To read the actual news story click here...
Santa Cruz Lion Freed: Thank You California! (2/21/2016)
California's latest mountain lion rescue took place Sunday afternoon near Santa Cruz. See the video HERE, and please leave your thanks on Facebook to Fish and Wildlife for making the right decision to relocate this lion back to its natural habitat.
Near downtown, the mountain lion had been spotted in the 100 block of Escalona Drive on Saturday.
Department of Fish and Wildlife units worked with Santa Cruz police to locate the lion. Fish and Wildlife staff tranquilized the animal and set it free in its natural habitat.
Since 2013 when the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFW) changed their guidelines and Mountain Lion Foundation helped pass enabling legislation (SB132) with
Senator Jerry Hill, nearly a dozen mountain lions have been successfully relocated in California.
Under previous guidelines, wardens were given no choice but to kill the lion if it was in a human occupied area.
Here at Mountain Lion Foundation, we only wish that other states would adopt similar guidelines.
Bay Area relocation efforts are assisted by the efforts of BACAT, a model program being developed by MLF, Oakland Zoo, Felidae, CDFW and other organizations and individuals to create standard protocols for responding to lions that wander into towns and cities.
The Santa Cruz Puma Project has been tracking mountain lions in the area since 2008. This was not one of their collared cats.
Lions benefit by nearby research activities and response teams because skilled professionals and tools such as cages and tranquilizers are nearby. Also, property owners are well known, and the location of territories occupied by other lions are better understood.
Thank you California and CDFW for making the right decisions to treat our big cats as an important part of ecosystems!
How YOU Can Help
Don't forget to see the video HERE, and leave your thanks on Facebook to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their efforts to relocate this lion back to its natural habitat.
(Photos courtesy of CDFW)
(Article #1688) To read the actual news story click here...
Nebraska Mountain Lion License Plates (2/18/2016)
Senator Ernie Chambers is one step away from creating special mountain lion conservation license plates in Nebraska.
Legislative Bill 474 passed through the Nebraska legislature today with a vote of 47-0. It is now sitting on the Governor's desk waiting to be signed into law. If the Governor approves, as soon as October 2016 Nebraska residents could apply for mountain lion conservation plates for their vehicles.
A fee of $5 will be charged for the special plates, and deposited into a new Game and Parks Commission Educational Fund. This money will be used "to provide youth education programs relating to wildlife conservation practices."
We are sending a letter to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts asking him to please sign LB 474 into law. These license plates are a great way for residents to show their support for mountain lions and contribute financially to wildlife conservation programs.
What YOU Can Do
Please take a few minutes to contact Governor Ricketts and encourage him to sign LB 474. Let him know creating mountain lion conservation license plates is an all around win for residents, wildlife, and the Game and Parks Commission.
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 94848
Lincoln, NE 68509-4848
Or submit your comments through the Governor's website Email Form
(Article #1687) To read the actual news story click here...
Young California Lion Finds Helping Hands (2/16/2016)
On Valentines Day, at 5:17 in the afternoon,Animal Rescue Team, Inc.'s 24/7 wildlife rescue hotline received a call that a sick and injured bobcat was in need of help at Sycamore Valley Ranch on Figueroa Mountain Road.
Julia Di Sieno, founder of Animal Rescue Team, describes the scene: "Upon our arrival we discovered a young starving mountain lion with spots, missing most of the tail. Bone was showing. And although we estimated a weight of no more than 14 pounds the lion should have weighed much more given its age. It was hiding underneath a car, and so weak it was very easy to contain."
The sedation and capture took nearly 6 hours and was ultimately successful. He was finally taken to a wildlife veterinarian for emergency care.
Following the incident, the ranch owner took the time thank the Animal Rescue Team for taking the lead in coordinating the medical evacuation.
"ART is happy with the CDFW biologist's final decision in saving this guy from further suffering," said Julia, "and, we enjoyed every moment helping."
Following up on Tuesday, Julia revealed that "we learned the lion has survived capturing and treatment, but he has a very long road to recovery."
On February 19, Mountain Lion Foundation learned that the young lion had died. We have little additional information. Fewer than 50% of lions make it to their first birthdays, a fact of nature, inescapable. When injured, sick or orphaned wild animals seek shelter in human inhabited areas, we are glad to see organizations like Animal Rescue Team, and wildlife veterinarians, available to make well informed decisions for the animal's future.
Animal Rescue Team is located in Santa Ynez, California, and provides quality animal rescue, treatment, rehabilitation, and release to sick, injured, orphaned and displaced animals in accordance with current standards in the field.
During the Jesusita Fire ART. rescued over 200 animals, wild and domestic, working with police and fire officials to get wild animals the help
Julia di Sieno has long worked to provide Mountain Lion Foundation with good information about best practices in rescue and rehabilitation, and also works closely with CDFW to respond to sick, orphaned, or injured mountain lions in her area.
Generally, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife does not do wildlife rehabilitation. The Department licenses properly trained and experienced wildlife rehabilitators like Julia, who do the actual work.
Wildlife rehabilitators rescue ill, injured and orphaned wildlife for release back to the wild. Most wildlife rehabilitators are volunteers who must pay for permits, cages, food, and veterinary care. ART receives no money or compensation from the state or federal governments to care for these animals.
In 2009, Julia rescued two orphaned mountain lion kittens in Solvang, and nearly got jailed for her good deed. That story is told at The Day the Safety Net Failed.
Under current California law and policy, only CDFW may treat and transport injured, orphaned or sick mountain lions. The majority of these end up in zoos or sanctuaries. Often, kittens are found dehydrated and malnourished following the loss of their mothers.
As if it were not enough to care for wildlife injured in her region, Julia has also doggedly pursued changes in policy related to the rapid proliferation of vineyards in parts of California, and the impact of vineyards on wildlife.
Few people realize that hundreds of deer are killed each year for "depredating" on grapes, and that some vineyard operators are unwilling to take steps to keep deer from entering, preferring to allow farm workers to kill the deer and take the meat for payment. Often, diminishing deer herds are blamed on local predators like mountain lions and coyotes, who have also been forced out of habitat by new vineyard operations.
For more information about how to support the Animal Rescue Team, Inc. visit their website or their Facebook page.
Young male mountain lion awaits the arrival of authorities.
(Article #1686) To read the actual news story click here...
South Dakota Lion Kills Rise as Population Dwindles (2/13/2016)
On February 3, 2016, news outlets in South Dakota reported that 20 mountain lions had been killed so far in the 2016 Black Hills season. 13 of the 20 were females.
Two days later a hunter in Lawrence County, South Dakota "harvested" a three-month old female kitten.
Mountain Lion Foundation is convinced that South Dakota's tiny and fragile mountain lion population is finally succumbing to the profound overhunting that has accrued since 2005 when hunting of mountain lions began in the state.
According to Regional Supervisor Mike Kintigh, "The 14-pound cat shot in Lawrence County was determined to be an approximately three month old mountain lion based on the size and spotted markings."
South Dakotans pride themselves on their outdoor lifestyle, including hunting and fishing. But where is the bravery in killing a 3 month-old kitten no bigger than a housecat? Is this fair chase? At what point does pistol-packin' independence warp into a complete lack of compassion?
"Given the right conditions, it would be very difficult to see that they were in fact spotted at, you know, a distance of 100 yards when they might be hunting. We take all of that into account when we investigate these cases", said Kintigh.
But in this case, the kitten was in fact so small that it is difficult to understand how such a mistake could have been made.
This inability to discern the size and sex of lions is one of the reasons that Mountain Lion Foundation has urged an end to trophy hunting. Loss of female and pregnant cats can have devastating impacts on small breeding populations. The orphaning, starvation and slow death of kittens is inhumane. So is the loss of a kitten to a mother cat.
The hunter was cited for a class one misdemeanor improper tagging, which carries a penalty of fines to $1,000, one year in jail and loss of hunting privileges for a year.
We reached out by telephone to John Kanta at South Dakota's Department of Game, Fish and Parks last Tuesday to find out more about the kitten that was killed, and to ask what Mountain Lion Foundation members can do to encourage an end to South Dakota's mountain lion hunt.
Perhaps by working to mend fences with agency biologists, we can come to a better understanding of why South Dakota's treatment of mountain lions continues to go so wrong.
Mr. Kanta indicated that the violator had been cited, and that he would be happy to meet with MLF later this year.
We also commented on South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Facebook Page to thank them for their action in citing the offending hunter. See our post to their page here.
What YOU Can DO
You can follow the number of mountain lions killed in South Dakota at Mountain Lion Mortality Table, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
You can express your THANKS to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks for acting on this hunting violation, by email to SDGFPinfo@state.sd.us or you can comment on their Facebook Page.
Ask them to urge South Dakota prosecutors to seek the full penalities for this violation.
Please also send MLF a copy of your email and cc: your emails to email@example.com. Thank you!
(Article #1679) To read the actual news story click here...
Shut Your Big Trap! (2/13/2016)
By Robert Basler
Reprinted with permission from author and the Santa Fe Reporter.
You wanna play hiking roulette?
For people who love the outdoors, New Mexico is truly a magical place.
You can hike for miles and miles on public land, marvel over indescribable vistas, gasp at exotic wildlife, desperately try to free your faithful dog from a hidden steel trap...
Hold on. Traps on public land? Can that be true? Indeed it can. New Mexico True, as we like to say.
Already this year, dog injuries have been reported in Santa Fe County and elsewhere in the state, thanks to traps that may legally be placed just 25 yards off the trails we all use. Moreover, if the trail is unmapped, the traps don't need to be set back at all. In 2014, a dog walking with its owners in Los Alamos County was injured in a trap hidden just one foot from the trail.
Please explain this insanity to me. Why is it a trapper's right to take a device straight out of a medieval torture chamber and hide it where I go for recreation? That's like sinking live torpedoes in the community swimming hole!
From there, it just gets dumber. I'm afraid dumb is going to have to pass for humor today, but donít worry, I've got plenty of it. The dumb won't run out, my friends.
These traps are not marked with warning signs. Trappers must be afraid some of our smarter wildlife might learn to read, thus avoiding a lingering and painful death.
You think the dumb is finished? Think again. You, as a taxpayer, have virtually no rights when it comes to these traps. If your dog gets caught in one, you may release it, but if you find any other poor animal suffering there, you must leave it until the trapper comes to kill it, maybe today, maybe tomorrow.
It's also illegal for you to spring a trap you find in order to protect wildlife. Good Samaritans, just keep moving along.
Shouldn't people just keep their dogs on a leash? Normally, yes. But dogs on public land aren't required to be leashed. If they were, hunters couldn't use bird dogs, and rescue dogs would be pretty worthless at their job.
Maybe you're thinking, But Bob, folks have to make a living, don't they?
Let me answer that as diplomatically as I can. Yes, but this is a shabby, shameless, stupid-ass living, killing animals to make fur garments that people shouldn't be wearing anyway, unless they're appearing in Game of Thrones.
Animal traps are like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get. Back in 2008, wildlife agents spread out snare traps on public land after a mountain lion killed someone. But before the lion could be trapped, a woman was injured when her horse was caught in one of the snares. A javelina was caught in another snare, and its thrashing attracted a bear, who began to eat the javelina until the bear got caught in yet another snare and was seriously injured, having to be euthanized. It was like some insane video game, but with living creatures.
Lest you think leg traps are just a fact of life, they are not. They are banned in more than 80 foreign countries and at least eight US states, including Arizona and Colorado.
People, please have a word with your legislators about this. Nobody expects us to join the 21st century right away, but maybe we could give the 20th century a try? Because New Mexico, the state that figures out the least it can do for its wildlife and then does even less, recently made it easier to trap cougars. Yes, easier.
Which explains the state's new license plate slogan you'll be seeing soon. New Mexico: Come for a hike, leave with a stump!
Please leave your positive comments for Robert Basler on the
Santa Fe Reporter web page!
Photo Illustration by Anson Stevens-Bollen (Article #1682) To read the actual news story click here...
Happy Birthday, Charles! You were a lion! (2/12/2016)
We'll be there to greet you at Sacramento's Darwin Day, tomorrow, Saturday, February 13 from 2:30 to 4:00 PM. For those who live elsewhere on the evolving planet, visit darwinday.org
Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Much of the work of the Mountain Lion Foundation is to convince people to adopt a new perspective on America's Lions. Today, we hope you'll encourage a hunter or rancher to be the one responsive to change.
The speaker in Sacramento this year is paleontologist Matthew J. James, PhD., Chair of the Department of Geology and Professor of Paleontology and Geology at Sonoma State University. He will entertain and inform about the 1905-06 scientific collecting expedition to the Galapagos Islands conducted by the California Academy of Sciences.
The topic is: "Collecting Evolution: The 1905-06 Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Charles Darwin"
Dr. James grew up on Oʻahu and did his undergraduate work at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is the recipient of the 2011 Karl Kortum Award for Maritime History for his work on the 1905-06 expedition. He has worked on Galapagos science, history, and conservation for 30 years, since first visiting the islands in 1982 on a paleontology expedition.
What is Darwin Day? It is an annual celebration of scientific inquiry honoring the life and work of the great Charles Darwin (born February 12, 1809), and sponsored worldwide by community and educational groups. For its very respectable history, visit the International Darwin Day Foundation.
HERE for the full announcement, which includes links to the online payment page and to the 2016 Sacramento Darwin Day Flyer.
Wyoming's Lions Escape Trapping Plan (2/10/2016)
By Dr. Mark Elbroch, Lead Scientist, Panthera's Puma Program
Cartoon courtesy of the Jackson Hole News and Guide
In January a bill was introduced in the Wyoming Legislature that, if it had passed, would have allowed any person with a valid hunting license to kill a mountain lion using a trap or snare. As a Wyoming resident and biologist, I'm thrilled to tell you that our Legislature voted yesterday in favor of science and to protect the balance of nature on which our state so deeply depends.
HB12 failed to pass the House on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, at 2:23 p.m. This bill was not based on valid research, and the potential negative consequences for mountain lions, other wildlife, Wyoming citizens and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would have been far-reaching.
Ostensibly, this bill was introduced to provide "additional tools" to reverse recent mule deer population declines, a valuable game species for Wyoming residents. In reality, the connection between mountain lions and mule deer population declines is tenuous at best. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has said that mule deer declines are largely the result of other factors, including habitat loss and disruption to migration corridors.
It is also well accepted among wildlife biologists that deer dynamics are driven primarily by weather patterns and resulting forage availability, not predators. In fact, a recent intensive, long-term study from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game emphasized that removing mountain lions and coyotes did not provide any long-term benefit to deer populations. The researchers reported: "In conclusion, benefits of predator removal appear to be marginal and short term in southeastern Idaho and likely will not appreciably change long-term dynamics of mule deer populations in the intermountain west."
Like mule deer, mountain lions are also experiencing significant population declines in some areas. Research conducted by Panthera's Teton Cougar Project in Teton County, Wyoming, shows that lion numbers north of Jackson have declined by half in eight years. Mountain lions in Wyoming are hunted with all legal firearms, archery equipment and trailing hounds, and these methods have proven effective in reducing mountain lion populations across the West. Introducing trapping — an imprecise method of hunting — could have crippled mountain lion populations further, as well as rapidly and unexpectedly influenced other wildlife populations.
The nature of trapping is indiscriminate. Trapping consists of snares and leghold traps, including steel jaws, which often cause serious injury to animals — breaking legs, ripping skin or completely severing limbs, via the trap or through self-mutilation. Traps deliver painful, slow deaths to wildlife and domestic animals unlucky enough to be caught. In Wyoming it is currently illegal to kill a female mountain lion with kittens or the kittens themselves. However, a trapper cannot dictate what animal is caught, resulting in the potential maiming or killing of female mountain lions, their kittens or federally listed wolves, wolverines, Canada lynx or grizzly bears. Traps may also injure people should they stumble into one.
Importantly, voting down HB12 maintained protection for the reproductive capital of our mountain lion populations: female mountain lions with kittens and the kittens themselves.
Trapping is not only imprecise in its implementation, it is also nearly impossible to track and monitor. This bill would have completely undermined mountain lion management currently conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, introducing chaos to a tracking system that may not be ideal but works. When Wyoming's House and Senate representatives introduce legislation that threatens their own Wyoming Game and Fish Department's ability to protect our state's immense and singular biodiversity, something is clearly wrong.
But Rep. Sam Krone eloquently opposed the bill for sportsmen against indiscriminate trapping, followed by Rep. Charles Pelkey, who emphasized the potential consequences of increased trapping on domestic animals and people. In the end the bill did not gain the required two-thirds majority to move forward.
Every year visitors flock to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, investing millions of dollars in Wyoming communities in the hope of glimpsing charismatic apex predators like the mountain lion. In voting down HB12, Wyoming voted for sustainable, scientific decision-making for our state and every creature with which we share this precarious and wonderful balance that we call home. In voting against mountain lion trapping, Wyoming chose evidence-based science over old mythology perpetuating fear and persecution of this amazing animal. It made me proud to live in Wyoming.
Yet the possibility remains that this bill will be reintroduced to the Senate this week. To ensure Wyoming's mountain lion trapping legislation stops in its tracks, continue to contact members of the Wyoming legislature this week.
If the bill is halted, New Mexico and Texas will be the only states in our country to allow the trapping of mountain lions.
(Article #1680) To read the actual news story click here...
Colorado's First Wildlife Bridge (2/4/2016)
Colorado's first wildlife bridge is proving to be a huge success. Saving the lives of both wildlife and motorists, the wildlife overpass on Highway 9 in Grand County was designed to reduce collisions on one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the state.
The multi-million dollar project is the first of its kind in Colorado. Cameras placed on the bridge show deer and a fox have already utilized the safe crossing. Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Cowardin told CBS, "Within days of it being completed we started having evidence of deer using the overpass on a daily basis."
The bridge is located on a deadly 10-mile stretch of Highway between Silverthorne and Kremmling. Nearly 600 car accidents and 16 fatalities have been reported during the last 20 years, with more than 500 animals killed on the road in the just the last decade.
Mike Ritschard is the spokesman for a local group known as Citizens for a Safer Highway 9 and knows firsthand how treacherous this section of road can be. Ritschard lost his parents in an automobile collision on Highway 9 thirty years ago. He told reporters he "always hoped this road would be improved. Never dreamed we would have this opportunity and now we do."
The overpass is part of a larger plan promoted in 2013, which would include five underpasses, two overpasses, fencing to corral wildlife to the safe crossing sites, and widening the road in certain areas. The price tag: a whopping $46 million.
To make matters worse, the Highway 9 crossing project was just one of more than 200 proposals competing for funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) program known as RAMP — Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships — designed to combine state and local money to fund desperately-needed road projects. The Highway 9 project would have to raise 20% of the $46 million in a matter of months to be considered.
A fundraising campaign started in May 2013 with the deadline of July 1 to hit the nearly $10 million needed. Kicking off the pool, $5 million was given by the wealthy owner of Blue Valley Ranch which borders the highway. The community then came together in full force, with more than 250 donors raising over one million dollars in 40 days.
As the final deadline approached, the community asked Grand County to contribute the remaining the $3 million to get the project off the ground. Citizens approached the commission, citing the need to protect residents, tourists and wildlife, along with the desire to have Grand be a model for the rest of the state
The Commission agreed to foot the bill, with one commissioner remarking this would not be an expense, but rather an investment in the future. Perry Handyside from Blue Valley Ranch commented, "The Grand County commissioners have provided the leadership for this project. We're in partnership with Grand County and CDOT [...] it's a worthy cause."
"Highway 9 has been the most dangerous highway as far as collision with wildlife, so this is a long overdue and very innovative project," said Cathy Connell, Commissioner of District 6 for Colorado Department of Transportation.
"This could not have been done with one agency, or completed with one group. It has taken multiple committees, businesses, agencies, to get a project this size completed," said Michelle Cowardin of Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
"This is the first overpass built in Colorado but I think the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado Parks and Wildlife and even the public are looking at this and asking, 'Why aren't we doing more of these elsewhere in the state?'" Cowardin added.
Watch deer use the brand new crossing courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and CBS Denver:
See more on the CBS Denver website.
The Mountain Lion Foundation is sending a thank you letter to five of the critical groups who made this historic wildlife overpass a reality. Not only have they made Highway 9 safer for people and wildlife, they have made Grand County, Colorado, a role model for the rest of the country.
What YOU Can Do
Contact your state's Department of Transportation and urge them to be mindful of wildlife issues. Encourage partnerships to build safe crossings on existing roads, and incorporate both fencing and crossings into construction plans for all new roads.
You can also thank the organizations and agencies involved in the Highway 9 crossing for their determination and success.
CO Department of Transportation
4201 E. Arkansas Avenue
Denver CO 80222
Citizens for a Safer Hwy 9
P.O. Box 1342
Winter Park, CO 80482
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
1313 Sherman Street, 6th Floor
Denver, CO 80203
Grand County Commission
308 Byers Ave.
P.O. Box 264
Hot Sulphur Springs, CO 80451
Blue Valley Ranch
Kremmling, CO 80459
(Article #1678) To read the actual news story click here...
Lion Confirmed in Tennessee! (1/28/2016)
Making history, Tennessee confirms its first mountain lion in over 100 years!
In October 2015, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) received photos from the trail camera of an Obion County hunter claiming to have proof of a mountain lion. Because most lion images circulated online are either mistaken identity or from another location, TWRA took some time to investigate the photos and ensure this wasn't just another hoax.
After careful analysis of the images, TWRA has confirmed there was in fact a mountain lion in Tennessee.
In a press release, the agency reminded residents, the "confirmation of one animal [...] does not mean there is an established population. A cougar sighting could easily be attributed to a transient young male or an illegal release of a captive animal."
The odds are this cat is a young male kicked out of his mother's home rage in a western state. He is searching for an available territory with food (preferably deer), water, cover and female lions. Until he finds a landscape with all four necessities, this cat will likely continue to wander. He may very well already have crossed into another state by now.
Since the photos were reported in October, at least two other sightings have occurred. A definite confirmation was a trail camera video taken just outside Nashville during Thanksgiving weekend. There's a chance it's the same lion since covering 200 miles in two months is an easy trek for a dispersing mountain lion.
With all the attention mountain lions have been receiving in the state, TWRA has created a "Cougars in Tennessee" webpage dedicated solely to the stealthy cat. The page provides some background information on lion biology and the species' history in Tennessee. Residents can also learn more about confirmations and how to submit proof for review by the agency.
TWRA reminds the public, "Because Tennessee law protects all animals for which no hunting season is proclaimed, the cougar is protected in Tennessee. It is illegal to kill a cougar in Tennessee except in the case of imminent threat of life and injury. Also, if a landowner is experiencing property damage made by wildlife, that landowner has the right to protect his/her property. TWRA has never, nor has it any plans to stock or otherwise physically encourage the establishment of a cougar population in Tennessee. TWRA plans to monitor the natural expansion of the cougar from the western US as it pertains to Tennessee."
Though against the law, dispersing lions in the Midwest and eastern states often find themselves in the crosshairs of hunters willing to risk a small fine for the thrill of shooting such a rare animal. Poaching laws in Tennessee provide some protection of mountain lions, but only as a deterrent. It is rare for penalties to be sufficiently harsh to keep poachers from poaching again. State law specifies that killing any animal contrary to the legal means, devices, or times laid out in the state's legal code is a Class B misdemeanor. A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 6 months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $500. This is significantly cheaper than the cost of flying west for a guided lion hunt.
But the Mountain Lion Foundation and its thousands of supporters hope this roaming lion stays out of harm's way. Fingers are crossed that he finds a place with female lions and sets up a territory. We can increase his chances by continuing to protect wild places, contacting legislators to pass laws that prohibit lion hunting, and increasing the penalties for those who violate game laws by poaching our precious wild life.
Together, we can work towards a future where lions once again roam Tennessee and the entire Appalachian Mountains. Please join us today!
(Article #1676) To read the actual news story click here...
THANK NYE NEVADA SHERIFF FOR TELLING US THE TRUTH (1/28/2016)
Mountain Lion Foundation is in Nevada all this week, and so it might seem like a coincidence that a mountain lion was killed in Las Vegas just as we were checking in for a series of public meetings that will affect mountain lions in Nevada. But it happens all too often.
Monday, January 25, 2016 Nye County law enforcement received a report of a mountain lion in Pahrump, Nevada (just west of Las Vegas). Animal Control responded to a report of a mountain lion in the area and found the mountain lion in a thicket near some homes.
The Nye County Sheriff's Office then set up a perimeter to ensure the safety of residents, and called on the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Read the press release here.
Nevada Fish and Wildlife officers made the decision to shoot and kill the young lion. Although the Sheriff's office indicated that the location did not allow NDOW to tranquilize, it is difficult to understand why experienced wildlife officers could not have hazed the lion back into the wild, or tranquilized and relocated the lion once they had established the public safety perimeter.
From the size of the lion apparent in the photo, it is clear that the lion posed little public safety danger, and was little more than a kitten.
The maps and photos seem to show access to open space. Obviously they had clear shot at the lion.
When wildlife officers make decisions that deprive the public of their wildlife heritage, it is crucial that they also provide clear descriptions of the situation.
The Nye County Sheriff should be applauded (see below, what you can do) for posting a Press Release on their Facebook page, making information available to the public, and for responding to public questions. It took courage to do so, especially given that local law enforcement were not responsible for the decision to kill the lion.
At the time of this reporting, could find no other information on the incident, from NDOW or the press.
In California, the Mountain Lion Foundation passed a law to protect lions from being killed just because bullets are cheaper than tranquilizers. Now, unless a California lion is actually behaving aggressively and people are in imminent danger, the lion cannot be killed. Utah is successfully relocating lions, even in highly populated areas, as are many other states.
The Nye County Sheriff's Office noted that this time of year it is common for mountain lions, coyotes and bobcats to migrate into the Pahrump Valley in search of food due to winter conditions in the mountains. We hope that all of the agencies in the area will come up with better plans to respond to these "common occurrences".
But we need to encourage agencies to act more effectively and to provide greater information to people who live nearby.
The Mountain Lion Foundation is working closely with the Nevada Wildlife Alliance to change state policies regarding hunting, trapping, "predator management" and, yes, what to do when a lion mistakenly wanders into town.
We are sending a letter to thank the Nye County Sheriff for contacting NDOW, for making such valuable information available to the public and for responding to public questions and outrage.
MLF Staff attended a presentation in Reno on Tuesday to learn more about the specific scientific research that details how mountain lions are surviving in Nevada and how species conservation can be improved in the state.
Our Associate Director will attend public meetings on January 28, 29, and 30th in Las Vegas to urge NDOW, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and other policy-makers to better protect Nevada's mountain lions.
What YOU Can Do
We need members and volunteers to help make policy changes. Please, wherever you live, join the Mountain Lion Foundation.
But especially, if you live in Nevada, help us to build our membership numbers in the state so that our voices will have greater credibility when we speak out for lions.
If you only know us by email or social media, join with a donation however small or large so that we can count your voice by where you live, and not only by a tag on the web.
And please go to the Facebook Page of the Nye County Sheriff, and however outraged you are at what occurred, thank the Sheriff for their courage in reporting on the incident to the public.
Or, write to thank the Sheriff, Sharon Wehrly, at:
South Area Command
Sheriff's Office Headquarters
1520 E. Basin Road
Pahrump, NV 89060
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Article #1677) To read the actual news story click here...
LAUGHABLY LOW PENALTIES IN MONTANA LION CRIMES (1/24/2016)
Roy and Stanley Hankins - two hired houndsmen in Montana - have been sentenced for illegally killing mountain lions in 2012. Both men received only $1000 fines, suspended jail time, and loss of hunting privileges for two years.
The fact that these were only misdemeanor counts and that hunting privileges were only denied for the minimum 24 months is outrageous. Even more shocking is that Roy Hankins was found guilty of trafficking in the unlawfully obtained body parts of a protected species as far back as 1982. That conviction was upheld before the Montana Supreme Court.
In this latest indictment, Roy R. Hankins of Townsend and Stanley A. Hankins of Fort Benton were convicted of outfitting without a license, failure to obtain landowner permission, and unlawful possession of a game animal.
Montana penalties for a person convicted of outfitting without a license is a fine not to exceed $1000 or imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or both, forfeiture of licenses for any period set by the court, and reimbursement of fees. For unlawful possession of a game animal, the fine is again not more than $1000, 6 months of detention, and at least a two year forfeiture of licenses.
With prices for a mountain lion hunt in Montana in the $4500-$6500 range, thousand dollar fines are just a slap on the wrist, and after the two year suspension, there is tremendous motivation for houndsmen to carry on with little regard for the law.
The photos of hunted lions in this story
represent three of the mountain lions killed
related to the indictments of the Hankinses and
LeMonte Schnur, and were found on Facebook.
Although houndsmen often testify that they cannot be held accountable for a few bad apples, the evidence is that they are remarkably tolerant. Here are some testimonials about Roy Hankins from other Montana houndsmen:
"Roy is quite a character and has caught more lions than most guys will ever dream of. A lot of guys don't like him but you can't deny the fact that he is a cat catching son of a gun. I get a kick out of him and I'm glad that I had the chance to know him. There's never a dull moment with Roy and you won't find many guys that enjoy life as much as he does. I'm sure there are guys in parts of the state with better lion populations that catch a lot of cats but he catches a pile of cats in a moderate population area. Roy is old school and a good lion is a dead lion to him but that doesn't change the fact that he is a damn successful hunter. I'd love to see a book on the illustrious life of Roy Hankins, it would be an entertaining read."
"I beleive the question was who is the best lion hunter. Not who is the best houndsman. Roy doesnt own dogs for companions or buddies he owns hounds for killing cats. Roy may be a lot of things people dont agree with but the one thing you cant take away from the man is that he has probably put up more cats than most five men combined. As far as being a houndsman he probably does a lot of things most people wouldnt agree with including myself. But like an old time lion hunter told me when I first started Roy has shot better dogs than you or I will ever own. So in short I would have to say whether you agree with him or not we all could probably learn a few things from Roy including training hounds."
Forum of Montana Big Game Houndsmen, Tuesday, January 19, 2010.
Spelling and grammatical errors are original.
Outfitter LaMonte Schnur Still to be Sentenced
In the 2012 incident, the Hankinses had been hired by LaMonte Schnur, owner of Monte's Guiding and Mountain Outfitting in Townsend, who was investigated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks after receiving reports that at least four of his guided mountain lion hunts in 2012 were conducted on unauthorized lands. The lions were killed on private properties, state, or federal lands where the hunting groups were not permitted.
The hunters themselves who paid for the guided mountain lion hunts, and pictured here with the lions they killed, James Ruhl, William Heenan, William Rogers and Robert Griffin, were not charged.
Schnur voluntarily surrendered his outfitting license in an agreement with the Montana Board of Outfitters, and is ineligible from reapplying. Schnur also agreed to refund a total of $4,500 to two of the hunters and provide five free days of hunting to another, pay a $1,000 administration fee and update the board monthly on hunting activities during the 2015 season. Schnur is permanently ineligible from reapplying for an outfitting or guide license under the terms of the order.
As far as MLF is able to determine, Schnur is still able to hunt lions in Montana and elsewhere as an individual, and was able to continue to act as an outfitter up until December 31, 2015.
The Montana Attorney General's Office has filed an 18-count indictment against Schnur for the illegal hunts.
This is not the first time LaMonte Schnur has been convicted of violating game laws. In 2005 he pled guilty to five counts related to outfitting on national forest land in Montana without a permit. Under the plea agreement, in 2006 a federal judge sentenced him to two years of probation and a $10,000 fine.
Also in 2006, a Wyoming federal court found Schnur guilty of commercial backcountry trail use without a permit. He received a two-year license probation, was banned from entering Yellowstone National Park for two years and paid $3,510 in fines.
2006, hunters themselves remarked on the lack of meaningful repercussions to Schnur in statewide online hunting forums. One hunter said, "The thing thats going to really be interesting to see is how the guides and outfitters association acts on this issue. I bet they dont revoke his outfitting license. A 10k slap on the hand for 59K in profits. Unbelievable."
In 2006, the Montana Board of Outfitters placed his license on probation for three years, fined him $780 and ordered him to complete a remedial outfitter education program.
In 2015, in a letter to the Montana Board of Outfitters, Schnur commented this has been the most stressful time in his life. His website, www.montesguiding.com, notes that he "retired" at the end of 2015 and is working on transferring the business so that guided hunts can continue.
"We will continue to offer our spring and summer services of varmint shooting, wildlife watching/photography, and horseback trips/cattle drives through Montana Horse Country Adventures. We are currently working out the details of the transfer of the hunting business. We plan to have everything completed in time for you to book your 2016 hunt with the new management."
Monte's Outfitting is still listed with the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.
Schnur is due back in court in January 2016.
Follow the Money
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks admits that hunters cross the line. In an article titled For Sale: Montana's Public Wildlife they note that "over the last 20 years, greed has driven a new breed of poachers to line their wallets with Montana's wildlife. And we're seeing record-book heads that can sell for $30,000 to $40,000 or even more."
"With that kind of money at stake, a growing number of people are willing to do whatever it takes to put large racks in the hands of wealthy clients. What we're seeing is the intersection of big antlers with big egos. There's a growing interest across the county in having a big trophy on the wall - no matter how it's taken - and that's what's driving a lot of the poaching in Montana."
Mountain Lion Foundation Takes Action
Poaching is a difficult crime to investigate and cases rarely make it to court. To make matters worse, penalties are not sufficient to discourage criminals from poaching again. When an outfitter can make $5,000 from guiding just one hunt, the threat of facing a $10,000 fine is not much of a deterrent, as this could easily be made in one weekend.
We have written letters to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department, applauding the work of their wardens, including former warden Andrew Martin in this case.
And we have written to the Montana Attorney General's Office thanking them for investigating and prosecuting LaMonte Schnur, as well as Roy and Stanley Hankins. We appreciate the time they have put into this case and hope the judge will issue the maximum sentence against Schnur, given his long record of wildlife crime.
As reported by the Independent Record, FWP Enforcement Chief Jim Kropp said in an email that "it is disheartening, as I have known and worked with the Schnurs for a number of years, it's unfortunate these alleged acts occur and are attributed to a licensed professional.
"One of the main purposes of having a dedicated Fish & Wildlife Prosecutor at the Attorney General's office is to focus on the prosecution of large scale and heinous wildlife crimes," Kropp continued. "As citizens of Montana we simply won't tolerate trophy game animals being stolen from Montanaís landscape for the purposes of personal gain."
What YOU Can Do: Hold Montana to it's promise:
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