Cougar Clippings
Articles, opinions, and editorials about mountain lions and the Mountain Lion Foundation.
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Thank you Utah: Another Cougar Relocation! (1/21/2016)
As evidenced by a series of wonderful photos, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources lived up to its motto this week, proving that "wildlife is valuable to everyone" by relocating a mountain lion that wandered close to homes in Heber City. The female lion was spotted by neighbors in a backyard tree. Eventually, the lion "bailed out of the tree" and UDWR tracked, tranquilized and relocated the animal.

Photo of Heber Utah at the base of the snowy Wasatch Mountain range.
It's not surprising that a mountain lion would find its way down from Wasatch Mountain State Park and into the communities at the eastern base of the Wasatch Range. Like so many places in the American West, backyards and wildlands are just a stone's throw - or a lion's leap - apart.

Mountain Lion leaping away from truck during relocation.

Utah officials have not always treated wayward cougars with such kindness. In early summer 2014 officials from the Utah Department of Wildlife killed a captured lion, claiming that they were required to follow department policies that set the Wasatch Front as a "no tolerance zone". 85% of Utah's population lives within 15 miles of the Wasatch Range, mainly in the valleys just to the west.

But since that time, Utah has captured and relocated several lions, even from the western population centers of Salt Lake City (January 5, 2015 VIDEO) and Pleasant Grove (June 29, 2015).

Mountain Lion leaping away from truck through the snow during relocation."Everybody's better off."

"We like to give the mountain lion a chance," said Scott Root, conservation outreach manager for UDWR. "Any time you move a mountain lion it's gonna be in another mountain lion's territory. But that doesn't mean for certain that it will be attacked and killed by another lion."

Root says that you needn't call the division if you simply see a mountain lion out in the wild. "If you see a mountain lion on the trail consider yourself lucky, you saw something people rarely see. But if it starts stalking you or acting aggressively, that's when you start going through the steps: you don't run away, you stand your ground, make yourself look big. Make sure that cougar knows you are not a deer, you are a person. That typically will get the cougar to dart off."

Mountain Lion in truck while being relocated.

Our Resolve

Mountain Lion Foundation mailed a letter to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, commending them on their humane action in Heber City. Will you do the same?

What YOU Can Do

To encourage Utah DWR to continue to handle mountain lion encounters with non-lethal force, please consider sending a thank you note to the department:

Greg Sheehan, Director
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
1594 W North Temple, Suite 2110, Box 146301
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6301

Photos Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

(Article #1673) To read the actual news story click here...

No Need or Justification to Hunt Lions in Nebraska (1/18/2016)
Lion champion Senator Ernie Chambers has introduced Nebraska Legislative Bill 961 to end trophy hunting of mountain lions in Nebraska.

Your letters in support of the bill will help to convince Nebraskans of the international significance of this tiny lion population, a stepping stone to repopulating the Eastern U.S., where lions were wiped out in the 19th Century.

Mountain lion hunting was made legal in 2012 by Senator LeRoy Louden's LB 928. At the time, NGPC biologists estimated Nebraska was home to only 22 mountain lions.

"I was told that fears led to the creation of a hunting season for these, what I consider to be regal animals," Senator Chambers told reporters. "And these fears were engendered by the possibility or likelihood of these animals eating the grandchildren of Nebraskans." That notion is baseless, he said, because there is an inconsequential number of mountain lions in the state and those few "have better taste than that."

"There is no need or justification whatsoever to hunt these animals," Chambers added. "It's cruelty. It's barbaric. I will do what I can to stop it."

Along with much of the Midwest, mountain lions were a bountied predator and extirpated from Nebraska in the 1890's. One hundred years later, Nebraska confirmed its first mountain lion. The young lion likely dispersed from the small, newly-established breeding population in the neighboring Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

Map showing sightings of lions in Nebraska through 2014.
Ideal mountain lion habitat is limited in Nebraska but 2013 research indicated lions were breeding in the Pine Ridge and there may have been 22 resident cats. Using river valleys, Nebraskan lions can move East and into states that do not currently have breeding populations.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission initiated a limited sport hunting season on lions in 2014. Combined with other human-causes of mortality, 16 lions were killed, leaving an just 6 lions in the entire state, according to the Agency's estimate. In January 2015, Nebraska suspended lion hunting to conduct more research on the population.

With NGPC declaring they would open the state's first mountain lion hunting season in 2014, Chambers introduced a bill to repeal Louden's LB 928 and put a stop to lion hunting in Nebraska.

Chambers LB 671 -- a bill to eliminate provisions relating to hunting and killing of mountain lions -- made it all the way to the Governor Heineman's desk, but was vetoed. The bill died a week later, just a few signatures short of overriding the governor's veto.

After his original legislation died, Chambers proclaimed, "the war is not over," and in 2015 introduced LB 127 to stop the hunt. LB 127 would have removed the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's (NGPC) authority to open lion hunting seasons.

Unfortunately, with a vote of 8-0, Legislative Bill 127 was indefinitely postponed on January 12, 2016.

The given reasons? Senator Schilz, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, commented that NGPC needs to be able to use hunting as a tool to control wildlife. Other 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.

These ridiculous arguments directed at a population of fewer than 20 lions illustrate the outrageous lengths to which hunting advocates are willing to go to further their political ambitions.

Following the committee action, Chambers indicated immediately that he intended to introduce the bill yet again, and has done so with LB 961. Chambers vowed that if the committee kills this one too, they can expect to see an end to lion hunting amended into other bills.

Our Resolve

MLF has sent a thank you letter to Senator Chambers for his tireless efforts to protect mountain lions in Nebraska. We have also signed onto a letter with ten other organizations to the Nebraska Legislature showing our support for Chambers' legislation to ban lion hunting in the state.

What YOU Can Do

Write a letter of your own to Senator Chambers encouraging him to keep up the fight for America's lion and let him know he has your support. You don't need to live in Nebraska! Make it clear that these lions are critical to the repopulation of mountain lions in the Eastern United States, and therefore belong to us all.

Senator Ernie Chambers
District 11
Room 1114
P.O. Box 94604
State Capitol
Lincoln, NE 68509

NOTE: Senator Chambers does not maintain an email address for public commments.

You can also write to others in the Nebraska Legislature and the members of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and ask them to stop mountain lion hunting in the state, forever.

(Article #1672) To read the actual news story click here...

Wyoming Plans to Trap Lions (1/14/2016)
Wyoming House Bill 0012 (HB0012) has been introduced by Republican Representatives Jim Allen and Hans Hunt and Senators Eli Bebout and Larry Hicks.

photo copyright Jon Nelson 2015

The bill would allow "Any person holding a valid mountain lion license to take a mountain lion by use of a trap or snare."

Currently, mountain lions may be hunted with all legal firearms and archery equipment, and hound hunting is allowed.

The number of mountain lions killed in Wyoming would certainly increase with trapping as an option, as would the pain and suffering of the big cats.

The number of lions killed in Wyoming has risen steadily over the years. Combined with other pressures such as habitat loss, competition with newly established wolf packs, poisons, being killed on roads, and increasing numbers of people who are intolerant of the big cats, as well as their pets and livestock, it's extremely difficult to understand how the trend can continue without serious repercussions to the populations of mountain lions.Increasing kills of mountain lions in Wyoming.

Traps are nonspecific, and may catch lions less than one year old and females with kittens, which are currently prohibited in the hunt. It's uncertain how many mountain lions are currently caught in traps set for other animals in Wyoming.

Mountain lions would be treated differently than other trapped animals under the proposed law. Currently trappers target furbearers such as badger, beaver, bobcat, marten, mink, muskrat and weasel.

Wyoming's wolves, coyotes and fox are classified as predators, and fall under the jurisdiction of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, but no license is required to trap these canine predators, even when they are also trapped for their fur.

The season "harvest quota" for mountain lion hunting is set by the Game and Fish Commission in July.

Despite being listed for 38 years as a game mammal, and decades of publicly funded research, the State of Wyoming refuses to openly announce a population estimate on the number of lions existing within its borders.

Some have opined that this policy stance is an effort to avoid having to justify an ever increasing hunting quota, and wildlife management decisions which enrich a few ranchers and outfitters at the expense of the species.

Lion looking up.

Our Resolve:
An Action Alert This Week

We'll be contacting Wyoming legislators and partner organizations, and telling you more about how you can make your opinion clear. Enough is enough! We need to take back our wildlands now!

Sign the petition to Oppose HB 0012 on our Wyoming Action Alert page.

What YOU Can Do

To keep up to date as this effort progresses, please sign up for MLF's email updates.

Another way to help Wyoming's mountain lions: become a member of the Mountain Lion Foundation today.

For much more information about the treatment of mountain lions in the State of Wyoming, visit MLF's Wyoming Page.


(Article #1671) To read the actual news story click here...

What are the odds? (1/13/2016)
The historical average odds of any one individual being fatally attacked by a mountain lion in the United States is about one in a billion, or three times LESS likely than that same individual getting the winning numbers in tonight's Powerball Lottery.

In the past 25 years there have been only seven fatal mountain lion attacks in the United States.

This is a 28% chance (7 divided by 25) of this event occurring in any year in the United States.

The US population is currently 321 million, but over the past 25 years the average population was 299 million.

Which makes the odds of being fatally attacked by a mountain lion one in 1,068,681,429, just a little more than one in a billion!

While you are waiting to find out whether you are a winner, why not learn how to protect yourself in the rare event of a mountain lion encounter.

Good luck and safe travels from the Mountain Lion Foundation.

(Article #1670) To read the actual news story click here...

Kellogg Leaves California Commission Mid-Term (1/9/2016)
Jim Kellogg has stated that he is resigning from the California Fish and Game Commission, expressing frustration with the Commission's recent actions to protect wildlife.

Kellogg showed little consideration to anyone on the commission or testifying before it who placed a concern for wildlife before the short term goals of hunters.

"For the past couple of years, I've been losing more battles than I've been winning on behalf of hunters." Kellogg said to The Outdoor Wire. "Finally, after getting rid of the two pain-in-the-butt commissioners the governor appointed two others..."

Photo of Jim Kellogg at Commission Meeting. Kellogg took an opposite stance to Michael Sutton and Richard Rogers, before they were replaced by Erik Sklar and Anthony Williams. The latter two commissioners, appointed in June of this year, voted to ban bobcat hunting statewide at the Commission's August meeting. Kellogg was one of two no votes on the ban.

The Mountain Lion Foundation advocated against Kellogg's reappointment to the Commission in 2013, when he replaced Dan Richards as the president of the commission after Richards was pictured with a bloody mountain lion received as an illegal free gift of a guided hunt in Idaho, violating state ethics rules. Kellogg expressed sympathy for Richards, remarking that while on out of state trips he might shoot a wolf, but "I guarantee there won't be a picture of it.".

Unfortunately, Kellogg was reconfirmed for another six-year term by the Senate Rules Committee on January 9, 2013 by a vote of 4:1. Kellogg's appointment was scheduled to run through 2018.

The Mountain Lion Foundation will actively advocate that Governor Brown fill Kellogg's seat with a Commissioner who places wildlife first to benefit all Californians, not just a few.

Kellogg gave the news of his departure and made his biases clear on the hunting website The Outdoor Wire: "A lot of the other (Ed. note: hunter and trapper biased) wardens and biologists are all bailing out. It's a losing fight and we're burned out on it..." Let's hope he's right! (Article #1669) To read the actual news story click here...

South Dakota Woman Runs from Mountain Lion (1/6/2016)

photo copyright Jon Nelson 2012

Virginia Potter of Deadwood, South Dakota, and her small dog had a startling run in with a mountain lion Sunday night.

Around 7:00 p.m., Potter took her 6-month-old corgi out to her yard. Shorty, the puppy, began barking at something and Potter assumed it was at a family of rabbits that live under her shed.

Moments later, a mountain lion appeared and bounded over Potter's small picket fence towards the dog.

"I screamed bloody murder and started high-tailing it toward the house with Shorty on my heels, and we got to the house at the same time," Potter told Rapid City Journal staff writer Tom Griffith.

Once inside, Potter called the police. Two Deadwood Police officers responded and spotted two mountain lions in the area near a fresh deer carcass. They ran off when one of the officers fired his gun.

Likely, the mother lion had recently killed the deer to feed her family. The cat may have viewed Shorty as a hungry scavenger, and chased him away while being protective of her meal.

Officers removed the deer and stayed at Potter's house for the next three hours to monitor the situation. The Department says sightings are common this time of year as deer move into cities in search of greener vegetation. Residents should remove attractants. And in the rare situation of an encounter with a lion, do not run, as this may trigger the predatory instinct to chase.

Deadwood Police Chief Kelly Fuller commented that his department is reluctant to kill mountain lions.

"We realize they share the area with us," he said. "As long as they're good neighbors, we don't have a problem with them. They are a magnificent animal, and they have their place here. But our job is about public safety, and sometimes we have to take action."

Fuller prefers to handle non-aggressive lions with less than lethal force. Officers are equipped with rubber bullet shotgun rounds to haze lions away from urban areas.

These two lions appear to have moved on, but Potter remains cautious and is keeping her puppy indoors.

Our Resolve

MLF has sent a letter to Deadwood Police Chief Kelly Fuller to thank the officers for their response to this incident. We also included a copy of the Cougar Management Guidelines (created by mountain lion scientists to address issues of conflict) to help the department expand their mountain lion response toolkit. You can view our thank you letter.

What YOU Can Do

Write your own letter to Chief Fuller and his department to thank them for responding positively to this incident. The Mountain Lion Foundation views South Dakota as a pivotal state in terms of the struggle mountain lions face in establishing populations east of the Rockies, and we would like to encourage this state to continue responding to mountain lion interactions non-lethally. Use your voice! Tell the department that you appreciate their stance of sharing the landscape with our mountain lion neighbors.

Deadwood Police Department
Attn: Chief Fuller
100 Sherman Street
Deadwood, SD 57732

Please also share your thoughts and feedback with our online community. The discussion continues in the Rapid City Journal article's comments section.

(Article #1668) To read the actual news story click here...

Mountain Lion Season Ends Abruptly (12/23/2015)
The following story by Lauren Donovan is reposted from

With six of seven mountain lions killed in just four days—abruptly filling the quota and closing the season—a false impression might be created that the population is robust.

But the number of lions in western North Dakota has been on the decline since 2011, and the State Game and Fish Department will talk to the public in February about reducing the quotas.

The season closed Monday when the last of seven allowed in the western late season was killed by hound-hunting groups that killed one lion each day of the weekend, Friday through Monday. The houndsmen, who live in the Grassy Butte area, had taken one earlier and accounted for five of the total. A father-son duo took the other two over the weekend, also hunting with hounds.

The hound hunters had a boon in the light snow that left lion-scented tracks, visible to the eye and detectable by the noses of specially trained dogs in the rough Badlands country around Grassy Butte, the sweet spot for the breeding lion population. The dogs are trained to tree or cave the lion so the hunter can take aim.

Chaston Lee, a Grassy Butte rancher who trains and runs hounds to track mountain lions, said he doesn't believe the population is going down, despite what Game and Fish research finds.

"Every time we went out, we found one or two tracks. We never had an easier season. It was just plumb easy," he said.

He and his hounds were involved in three kills over the weekend.

"All three went into a tree," he said, leaving shooters with about a 20-yard shot.

He promotes the sport on a Facebook page, ND Lion Hunts and Hounds. The final lion shoot was a wheelchair hunt for a friend from Keene, who was disabled in a car accident.

"It was pretty neat," Lee said.

Having trained dogs and living in "cat country" does provide a unique set of circumstances, he says.

Home advantage

"They have the home field advantage," says Stephanie Tucker, a biologist with the State Game and Fish Department who studies the lions after they are killed to gain biological and demographic information.

"They're extremely efficient. With lions, the driving factor in their survival rate is hunting, and we see with our research animals that most are taken by hound hunters," Tucker said. "It's not their fault; they're just really good at what they do. It's the department's responsibility to look at the numbers."

Photo of Stephanie Tucker with lion pelt.It is partly the success of hound hunting—but also the overall quota of 21 in the western breeding zone—that is causing the Game and Fish Department to rethink how it manages mountain lion hunting in North Dakota. The quota is portioned, with 14 lion kills in an early-start season when no dogs are allowed and seven lion kills in the late fall when dogs are allowed.

In the decade since lion hunting has been legal, the department has recorded 97 mountain lion kills in the western breeding Zone 1 and nine in Zone 2, which is everything east of Highway 8 where lions are moving through, not living. There are no limits for Zone 2. Fort Berthold has its own program and 12 lions have been killed there, for a statewide total of 118, according to department records.

Tucker says research starting in 2011 finds the lions have a 42 percent to 48 percent survival rate, but a rate higher than 70 percent is required to sustain the population. The research is based on the carcasses, which reveals age and pregnancy rate, along with the mortality rate of radio-collared research lions.

"We're exploring that our level of take is not sustainable. If we want a harvestable population, we need to back off and explain why," Tucker said.

The big harvest in just one weekend seems to contradict that trend and that will be part of the public discussion, she said.

"The hound hunters are so efficient it's causing a misunderstanding that the lion population is bigger than it is. There are not lions coming out of our ears; it's just not the case," said Tucker, adding that a return to a western Zone 1 quota of eight to 10 is a number that likely would sustain the population.

Public input

Tucker said it also may be time to spread out the opportunity.

"Maybe we need to look at a lottery and give out tags and then give them all season (until March 31) so there's not that mad rush," she said.

Her boss, Jeb Williams, chief of the department's wildlife division, said he'll hold three meetings around the state in February to talk about the mountain lion program.

Williams said he does hear that more people want the opportunity to kill a lion and that its value as a recreational sport is increasing.

"We want to make sure it's equitable," he said.

Right now, lion hunting is open to anyone with a fur bearer's permit, provided the quota hasn't been met.

Williams also suggested it could be time to introduce a lottery system, like it has all big game.

"We'll look at that—a lottery system—to make sure everybody has a fair chance," said Williams, explaining the department will wait until it gets public input before making any decisions.

"Right now, the lion numbers with our research are trending down. We've been fairly aggressive. It'll all be part of the discussion we'll have this winter," he said.

Lee says no hunter in his group has ever taken more than one lion and he'd like to keep the quota and see an additional training period, so houndsmen could work their dogs and track and tree lions outside of hunting them.

"It's not all about killing, it's the memories and the exercise. I don't like to see 'em die; I'm not cold-hearted. There's the thrill of the dogs and seeing the cats in a tree. They're so majestic; so cool," Lee said.

(Article #1667) To read the actual news story click here...

Celebrity Lion Killed in Montana (12/22/2015)
Earlier this month, a young female mountain lion made front page news. She had dispersed from British Columbia, Canada all the way into Montana's Helena Valley.

The 450 mile trek is extremely rare for a female lion. While males frequently travel great distances from where they were born, females tend to establish territories bordering those of their mother.

Back in March, the 90 pound female lion was captured by researchers close to Sand Creek. She was given the nickname "Sandy" and fitted with a tracking collar before being released.

Map of Sandy's trek into Montana.Biologists in both Canada and Montana had access to her GPS data, which sent an update on her location once per day. By mid June, Sandy had crossed the border into the U.S.

By the end of July she had made it across the Rocky Mountains and was headed towards the plains.

Staying in forested greenbelts near housing tracts for cover, researchers began to worry she might get into trouble for preying on pets or livestock.

Sandy managed to stay out of sight and out of trouble. Not finding good lion habitat on the plains, she turned back until reaching the foothills again.

From there, the determined lion continued southeast into Helena Valley, nearly to Bozeman, and well on her way to Yellowstone for the new year.

Unfortunately, Sandy's life was cut short.

Photo of Sandy sedated with researcher who collared her in Canada.Montana's mountain lion recreational hunting season runs from September to April. During this time, 683 lions can be killed for sport. This past week, Sandy became one of the nearly 200 mountain lions to have been shot by hunters so far this season in Montana.

The hunter likely didn't know the incredible distance Sandy had traveled. Nor did he know researchers and the public were excitedly tracking her journey. Nor did he realize the valuable genes she was carrying that could have strengthened the local lion population had she lived long enough to breed.

At 90 pounds, Sandy's carcass wouldn't even be large enough for any ego-driven sport hunter to have a taxidermist mount. The hunter simply saw a warm blooded target and decided to pull the trigger.

In the western United States 3,000 mountain lions are shot by sport hunters every year. Each cat has a story, a genetic bloodline, and a critical role in ensuring the species' long term survival.

And each time we kill a lion, we lose a little bit of what distinguishes us as humans: our capacity for compassion, for making rational decisions that benefit the common good, for overcoming the urge to demonstrate power and dominance at the expense of our neighbors and our environment.

If we lose our big cats, we will mourn a species that we barely understood. Only a few of us will have encountered an individual wild lion.

And this will be the greatest loss: That we knew just enough to save them, enough to change our behavior, enough to make a difference, and that we chose not to act.

Take the first step: become a member of the Mountain Lion Foundation today.

(Article #1666) To read the actual news story click here...

Lions still lurk in Buffalo Valley (12/21/2015)
The following story by Mike Koshmrl is reposted from the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

If not for a wolf pack attacking a horse in a Buffalo Valley pasture, the mountain lion now known as F72 could have come and gone without cougar researchers ever having known.

But late last week three wolves got into Jack Hatch's horses, maiming one badly, and the houndsman grabbed his dog and followed the lobos' tracks to "see where they came from."

Along the way he caught a lion track -- a rarity in the region these days -- and followed it onto a high ridge.

"Then the wolves got on top of the lion track," Hatch said.

It was getting late, and Hatch had to pick up his daughter. He gave up the pursuit.
But where Hatch left off, a team of biologists with Panthera's Teton Cougar Project regained the trail.

Two nights had gone by since the mountain lion had passed through the pasture, and Saturday at dawn Connor O'Malley and Jeremy Williams were creeping along in a pickup truck, on the lookout for cougar tracks. Anything big and round with short strides warranted a stop and closer look.

"It's so easy to miss the cat tracks," O'Malley said. "You see elk, elk, elk, wolf, wolf, and the cat tracks somehow slip through."

On that day O'Malley later discovered he had unknowingly driven by two sets of hard-to-see lion tracks.

Luckily, it didn't matter.

Miles away Cougar Project leader Mark Elbroch and hired houndsman Boone Smith were hot on the trail of a female lion.

Elbroch encountered a bed that was depressed and crusted in a way that suggested she had slept there the night before. Bounds in the snow show where she had sprung, unsuccessfully, at a fleeing elk.

At one point the cougar biologist came across a porcupine, or at least what was left of one.
Photo of porcupine quills.
"She went up right after it and knocked it right down," Elbroch said. "There was blood on each roll, and it was so steep the porcupine kept going.

"This is all written in the snow," Elbroch said.

Next to the prickly rodent's carcass were smaller cat tracks. Teton Cougar Project's target had a kitten.

At about noon, five hours into the chase, Elbroch radioed that he had spotted two cats. It was uplifting news for a team that knew the odds of a capture had just gone way up.

A new trackable mountain lion in Buffalo Valley would be a huge coup for the Kelly-based nonprofit research group, which hasn't collared a cat that has stuck around the drainage for years.

Two of Smith's hounds, Kilo and Lucky, were put to work next and let loose once the lion's kitten was separated for safety. At the same time the rest of the bunch, including O'Malley, Williams, Michelle Peziol and Jennifer Feltner, went scrambling to catch up on snowmobiles and reunite with a kit that carried gear for tranquilizing, testing and collaring the lion. Sam and Jake Smith, Boone's father and son, went along to help.

By 2:45 p.m. the adult cougar had been treed for the third time. Perhaps 20 feet off the ground, she looked anxious and was eyeing an escape route.

The big cat didn't bother descending from the perch but rather impressively launched herself onto a snow-covered hillside and bounded out of view.

Photo of trackers walking up snowy hill."Here she comes," Elbroch said. "Damn."

The hounds, which had been tethered to trees, were set free, and the chase started back up.

But the cat was tired, and 10 minutes later she was up a tree again, this time maybe 30 feet high and with few large support branches beneath her -- less than ideal capture conditions.

Noting that the terrain and trees nearby were similar, Elbroch made the call to attempt to tranquilize the cat.

"Let's work it," he said.

With urgency the team sprang into action, readying equipment for the capture.
Ketamine, a hallucinogenic anesthetic, is the drug that's initially used to immobilize a lion.

Once it sets in Smith ordinarily climbs the tree with gear and lowers still-awake but delusional cats down by hand.

But it was cold in the Buffalo Valley on Saturday afternoon, and though the first ketamine dart connected it had frozen and failed to fully dispense.

Minutes later a second dart whacked the cat's haunches, causing her to drop from her perch and hightail it for a fourth time.

"Grab the darts," Smith said. "Find out what we got."

The second dart fully dispensed the drug.

"We got a dose and a quarter," he said.

A young mother

Hearing word, the squad of scientists and lion trackers packed up and followed her tracks, hoping to find the female cougar as quickly as possible. With the cat incapacitated, the dogs were kept tied up.

Elbroch and Smith reached her first. She was on the ground, squirming in a ketamine stupor. Approaching from her backside, Elbroch unloaded a syringe of sedative into the cat to push her toward slumber.

A few minutes later she was still twitching. Boone Smith used the experience to teach his 10-year-old son, Jake.
Photo of sedated lion in tarp with researchers around.
"A lot of times females with cubs can fight the drug harder, just 'cause they're moms," Smith said. "You know how mom's kind of tough sometimes? It's the same thing."

Elbroch used the occasion to train more junior members of the Cougar Project research team. O'Malley, Williams, Peziol and Feltner took center stage while the immobilized cat was being examined.

The biologists inspected its body to make sure the 30-foot drop caused no damage. Almost immediately they found porcupine quills imbedded in the cat's chest and paws -- evidence of last night's dinner.

"Who wants a quill that was in a mountain lion?" Elbroch asked.

Over the next 45 minutes the sleeping lion was subjected to an array of tests. Blood samples were taken, limbs were measured, paws were inspected and she was weighed in at 79.2 pounds. All the while her temperature was monitored to make sure the chase hadn't caused her to dangerously overheat.

By checking gum recession around the feline's canine teeth, the team aged her at 2 1/2 years, a true youngster for a mother cougar. She got a name, too: F72.

All in all, Elbroch said, F72 "looks great."

"She's healthy," he said, "and she's just getting started in life."

Because of budget constraints the cat received an older, recycled version of a Meridian GPS collar that weighs about 1.4 pounds, about 40 percent more than a new model.

"It's not too heavy," Elbroch said, "but it's heavier than I'd like."

The day's light was beginning to dim by the time a drug was administered to reverse the tranquilizer. The ketamine, to the surprise of the biologists, had not yet worn off.

It took another 20 minutes or so before Elbroch and Feltner, who stuck around, watched their new research specimen shake the drug and scamper off.

The capture of F72 brings Teton Cougar Project up to seven research cats. Just as importantly, she expands the geographic reach of the team's monitoring to the Buffalo Valley, a former lion stronghold.

"This is the first cat caught in the Buffalo Valley that might be resident there in five years," Elbroch said. "We caught an ancient female up there. Almost dead on her feet and she had hardly any teeth left.

"She had an 18-inch tail and no ears, she had been so badly frostbitten," he said. "That was the last one, and before that it had been a couple years."

Hatch -- the local houndsman who first caught F72's tracks -- blamed wolves for the near disappearance of the cougar in his corner of Jackson Hole.

"You don't hardly find a cat around here anymore," Hatch said. "This used to be full of cats right here, but wolves wiped them out.

"Usually they steal their kills, and they end up starving to death," he said. "If that female gets knocked off of two, three kills in a row, she's going to starve to death."

Photo of lion in snowy pine tree.

Wolves and hunting

A decade and a half of Teton Cougar Project data confirms that wolves have taken a toll on lions, especially young ones, Elbroch said. But hunting, he said, has had a larger effect on overall mortality.

"The synopsis version of what's happening on the landscape is that cats are way down," Elbroch said. "Adults are primarily killed by people, small kittens are primarily killed by wolves, and kittens old enough to run up trees are primarily dying from starvation."

In the few days since F72 was captured she has returned to the porcupine kill site, the collar data told the team. Otherwise, she has been on the move in the wooded hills of the vast Leidy Highlands.

In coming days and months the collar will also lead the Cougar Project to kill sites and help biologists understand how F72 is a making a go of it. One day, perhaps, the device will also tell the researchers how she dies.

Although Elbroch admittedly pulls for his cats, he has a bleak prognosis for F72.
"She's in the toughest spot possible to survive," Elbroch said.

Based on her age -- the equivalent of a human teenager -- it's the lion's first winter on her own, he said. She lives in a valley with deep snow, little game and lots of competing wolves and grizzly bears.

"If that's not hard enough, she now has to care for and feed another mountain lion, who will be increasingly growing and demanding," Elbroch said.

"Life is about as hard as it gets for F72."

(Article #1665) To read the actual news story click here...

Relocated Lion Sparks Rehab Debate (12/18/2015)
Friday evening, December 11, a young mountain lion was hanging around Circle Bar B Ranch in Goleta (Santa Barbara County, California). Reluctant to leave, and with reports of a domestic cat killed previously in the area, residents believed the lion might be sick or injured.

Local wildlife organization Animal Rescue Team (ART) was called to the scene. Because lions are a specially protected mammal in California, there are strict restrictions on who can handle them. An amendment to that law in 2013 now allows for qualified individuals and organizations to assist the California Department of Fish and Wildlife with mountain lion rescue and rehabilitation. But guidelines are still in the works, and as a result ART does not currently have a permit to independently rescue or rehabilitate lions.
Photo of thin lion in doorway.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers arrived on scene and reportedly, "attempted to haze the animal back into open space. The cat refused to move so it was immobilized and taken to a wildlife veterinarian for evaluation. The vet assessed the condition of the animal and determined it could be released by staff."

The Department also noted, "Human intervention with wildlife should always be a last resort. Darting and examining a wild animal is very stressful and can often do more harm than good. CDFW always prefers to let animals return to the wild on their own. In this case, it was the only option because the lion was close to a residence and refused to move."

While some are praising the relocation of this 60 pound female lion as a great success, others are frustrated the animal did not receive additional medical care. If she was in fact two years old as estimated, this cat was nearly 30 pounds underweight.

One wildlife expert responded that releasing the animal so soon was the wrong decision, indicating the scraggly face of the lion may be a sign of mange from rodenticide exposure. This lead to the question of whether the Department released her so she could die in the wild rather than going through the trouble of finding a facility for rehabilitation.

In April 2014, the iconic Hollywood lion, P-22, wasn't look so great in photos captured by a trail camera. Local mountain lion researchers captured him and treated the mange and anticoagulants found in his blood stream. This did not require placing the cat in captivity.

While it has not been revealed what, if any, treatments were given to the Goleta lion while in the custody of CDFW and veterinarians, it's clear a larger debate on rehab policies is on the forefront.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Following this incident, MLF received multiple inquiries from the public about the welfare of the lion and CDFW's handling of the situation.

We contacted the department for more information and learned CDFW is currently in the process of creating a mountain lion rehabilitation plan. They are working with experts across the nation to ensure the program will be thorough and contain best practices, facility locations, release sites, and GPS monitoring of released individuals.

Photo of thin lion on table with vets around.Mountain lion rehabilitation is rare, and most states won't even consider attempting it because of the costs and potential liability issues. By drafting this plan, California is taking a huge step forward.

A Santa Barbara County CDFW Lieutenant also shared some information about what happened to the Goleta lion after being tranquilized.

The cat, "was transported to the California Wildlife Care Center in Calabasas where it was examined. It was treated for mange and given water and food. On Sunday it was transported back and released in the Santa Ynez Mountain range."

While more time at a rehab center may have allowed the lion to put on weight and regain her strength, being in captivity is stressful for wild animals. Finding the right balance is just one of many challenges faced daily by dedicated wildlife rehabilitators.

(Article #1664) To read the actual news story click here...

Cougar Cubs Rescued in Oroville (12/11/2015)
Three orphaned cougar kittens were captured by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials earlier this month in Oroville along Highway 7.

Locals had reportedly spotted the thin 50 lb cats just outside of town. Officers arrived and found the kittens had been feeding on a deer carcass that had been illegally disposed of.

Over the course of three days, officers were able to catch all three siblings. Unfortunately, one had sustained serious injuries and was euthanized. The other two were transported to a cougar specialist in Wenatchee for temporary holding.
Photo of captured cougar on truck tailgate with WDFW officer.
Their ultimate fate is still unknown. Nor is it clear what happened to the kittens' mother.

An adult lion was reportedly killed in the area back in October because residents suspected it had preyed on loose pets. Officials didn't state if it was a female. But if so, it could have been the mother.

Cubs only nurse for the first three months of life but are dependent upon their mother for nearly two years. They spend much of their early life stashed away in bushes or rocky caves while mom goes out to hunt.

Killing an adult female mountain lion often means a death sentence for out of sight kittens.

Washington also allows over 100 lions to be killed for sport from September 1 - April 30 throughout the state. Orphaned kittens are a depressing byproduct of this cruel and outdated hobby.

Until citizens are able to come together to ban the sport hunting of mountain lions, we will continue to see numerous orphaned kitten stories make the news each year. Fortunately in this case, WDFW officers spared the cats a slow and painful death from starvation.

Please join the Mountain Lion Foundation to help us protect lion mothers and allow them to raise their kittens wild and free.

(Article #1663) To read the actual news story click here...

Mountain Lion Relocated from Pacific Grove (12/9/2015)
On the morning of Monday, December 7, residents in the coastal community of Pacific Grove (Monterey County, California), were surprised to see a mountain lion walking across roofs and climbing neighborhood trees.

Pacific Grove police officers were dispatched and notified the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). They arrived on the 300 block of Eardley Avenue to find the young mountain lion settled on a comfortable tree branch and was likely ready to sleep until nightfall.

Fish and Wildlife Captain Don Kelly said it's typical for a mountain lion to be still and quiet during the day.

"It was roosting in a comfortable spot, very relaxed, not anxious," Kelly said.

Photo of lion sleeping in tree.Under California's new mountain lion public safety law (courtesy of SB 132 and CDFW's lion protocol), any non-aggressive lion in an urban area must be handled with non-lethal force. A few years ago, this situation may not have had a happy ending. But increased training and tools allowed the two CDFW biologists on site to tranquilize and transport the cat back into the wild.

"They did a great job of bringing down the animal gently," PGPD Commander Roy Lakind noted, adding that the cat made its way down the tree after being struck, then quickly fell back to sleep.

"The mountain lion was unharmed and transported away from the scene for relocation. [...] She looked a little bit bigger up in the tree. She's a beautiful animal," Lakind commented.

Biologists estimate the young female lion was approximately 18-22 months old, and appeared to be "in very very good shape" according to Captain Kelly.

This is the age when lions are kicked out of the nest by their mothers and must disperse to find a vacant territory of their own. Having never been out of mom's home range before, these inexperienced lions sometimes wander through human populated areas as they learn how to traverse the landscape.

Luckily, this occurred in a state where lions have legal protection. Other parts of the country have zero tolerance policies for lions in town.

To help us enact lion protection laws -- similar to those in California -- throughout the U.S., please become a member today.

(Article #1662) To read the actual news story click here...

Fighting to Bring Panthers Back from the Brink (12/8/2015)
Florida's population of mountain lions (known locally as panthers) are critically endangered. With less than two hundred of the elusive cats left in the shrinking everglades, urban development and highways are chipping away at the species' chances for long-term survival.

Though it may seem hopeless, conservationists are refusing to give up on America's lion. Because every individual panther plays a critical role, injured and orphaned cats are rehabilitated and released back into the wild whenever possible.
Photo of rescued kitten in cage.
In October, a trail camera snapped a photo of a mother panther with her three young kittens. A month later, she was hit by a car and killed. This is almost always a death sentence for dependent offspring. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials set up traps in the area and were able to rescue one of the orphaned kittens before she starved. The feisty spotted 4-month old is now being rehabilitated at the Naples Zoo.

Another victory involves a 3-year old male panther who was severely injured by a car in 2014. University of Florida veterinarians repaired his broken leg and after months of rehabilitation, he was released in January into Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Fitted with a tracking collar, the cat's movements are helping researchers to better understand the habits and success rates of released panthers.

This male has impressed researchers by traveling more than 800 miles since his release less than a year ago. He initially headed towards the area where he was hit by a car, presumably also the region he called home. Then, the cat circled north past Lake Wales, east across the Kissimmee River, north again as far as Brevard County, then back south into St. Lucie County's citrus groves. He seems to be staying out of trouble and is likely looking for a territory with a few females to establish his new home range.
Photo of released panther wearing a collar running across dirt road.
Panther roadkills are on the rise, especially along Interstate 75's Alligator Alley in Collier County between the Naples tollbooth and the Faka-Union Canal. This is one of the deadliest stretches of road for panthers.

The Florida Department of Transportation is now planning to improve the fencing along this 9-mile section of road. Panther fencing is typically about 10-feet tall with a barbed wire overhang. Though not very visually appealing, these fences help corral wildlife to safe crossing zones and help reduce injuries to both wildlife and motorists.

There is still a long way to go. In order to be removed from the Endangered Species List, there would need to be three separate populations of at least 240 panthers in each region. Neighboring Alabama and Georgia would inevitably have to designate habitat and connecting corridors. But in the meantime, these small victories of rehabilitation and improved fencing are giving the panther population some much needed life support.

(Article #1661) To read the actual news story click here...

New Mountain Lion Found in the Santa Monica Mtns (12/7/2015)
The following story was written by Chris Clarke and posted on KCET website

There's a great big cat roaming the western end of the Santa Monicas, according to the National Park Service. An adult male puma previously undocumented by biologists was captured and collared by Park Service biologists in November, bringing the possible total of adult male cats in the Santa Monicas to three.

The mountain lion, dubbed "P-45," is thought to be about two or three years old. He's a big fella; at 150 pounds, P4-5 is larger than all but one other mountain lion found in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area since Park Service biologists started studying the range's big cats in 2002. (The first puma recorded, P-1, also weighed in at 150 pounds.)

According to Park Service biologist Jeff Sikich , P-45 has been spending his time since being collared on November 21 roaming the relatively undeveloped west end of the range toward Ventura. Biologists think the Santa Monica Mountains may only hold enough territory for one or two adult male pumas, raising the possibility that P-45 may have displaced one of the range's two other known males.

The famous and much-photographed P-22 lives in Griffith Park at the far eastern end of the range, separated from the Santa Monica Mountains NRA by the developed Hollywood Hills and Interstate 405. Another male, P-27, maintains a range in the Santa Monicas west of Sepulveda Pass. A third, P-12, was last known to occupy the same part of the range as the newly discovered lion. P-12 made news when he successfully crossed the Ventura Freeway from the north in 2009 to find territory in the Santa Monicas.

P-12's radio collar stopped working some years ago, but he's been spotted via camera trap on occasion, and has fathered several litters of kittens, including one photogenic but ill-fated litter of kittens two of which have succumbed to the main perils facing mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains: P-32 was killed attempting to cross I-5 near Castaic in August, while his sister P-34 succumbed to chronic poisoning from household rodenticides in September.

Until P-12 is spotted again, biologists won't know whether the larger, younger P-45 muscled P-12 out of the west end of the Santa Monicas.

"During the course of our study, we've only been aware of one or two adult males at any given time in the Santa Monica Mountains." said Sikich. "We're very interested to learn whether there are now three adult males or whether P-45 successfully challenged one of his competitors."

The National Park Service is tracking 11 mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains. The range, isolated from nearby puma habitat by urban development and freeways, is essentially an incubator for puma inbreeding; with only very limited and dangerous access to other habitat, lions in the Santa Monicas have only very limited connection to their colleagues north of the 101. An attempt by Caltrans and wildlife advocates to design a wildlife crossing near Liberty Canyon in the western San Fernando Valley is in progress, but it will be several years at best before that migration corridor can be reopened to the big cats.

The Park Service is conducting DNA tests to determine whether P-45 was born locally, or whether he made the dangerous crossing into the range from elsewhere.
(Article #1660) To read the actual news story click here...

Cougar Photographed in Tennessee (12/4/2015)
A mountain lion has been confirmed in Humphreys County, Tennessee. Though more than eighty percent of reported lion sightings turn out to be other animals, occasionally people do catch a glimpse of these elusive felines.

In states east of their current breeding range, dispersing juvenile males have been known to wander hundreds and even thousands of miles in the hopeless search for a home range with females.

If we can curb sport hunting and other unnecessary killings of lions in the West, there's a chance females will move east and help the species recover their historic range.

To learn more about the recent mountain lion confirmation in Tennessee, check out the following video and news story reposted from Carley Gordon at WBRC Fox 6 news.

WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL -

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials said they have video proof of cougars living in Middle Tennessee.

The eastern species of mountain lions used to live in the region, but the last one died a century ago.
For years, the TWRA has received reports and pictures of cougars coming from the west.

The cougar was captured on a trail camera.

"They will be the top predator in the woods, outside of man," said Austin Burton, the owner of the trail camera.

Burton said he checked his camera in Humphreys County two days after Thanksgiving.

"It was actually the first video on the card. I was pretty much speechless," he said.

Burton showed the video to TWRA officers, who were equally blown away.

"It's one of the best videos I've ever seen, as far as trail cameras go," said TWRA spokesman Doug Markham.

The males can get up to 160 pounds. Officers said they are in Middle Tennessee because the area has what they like.

"There's a lot of habitat for them in Tennessee," Markham said. "There's a lot of things for them to eat, like deer and the smaller wildlife that's out there."

Markham said people should not fear what they don't know.

"Don't let this freak you out," he said. "A cougar attack on a human is extremely, extremely rare."
On the rare chance that someone does encounter a cougar, they cannot kill them unless their life is on the line.

"We just don't want folks to decide that they're going to go out and handle an issue and go hunting these cougars, because right now, there's no season on them, and they're protected," Markham said.

The TWRA recently created a verification committee. So far, there have been sightings in Obion, Carroll and Humphreys counties. Markham said there will be more, probably closer to home.

"I don't know how long it will take them, but I do think they will continue to expand," he said. "We're watching them and seeing what they're doing, and I'm sure we'll have something up on our website so you can see what's going on with them."

While the TWRA said a hunting season for the animals is possible, they would first have to be considered a nuisance or there would have to be enough of them to sustain a hunting season.
(Article #1659) To read the actual news story click here...

Cat confused with mountain lion prompts evacuation (11/19/2015)
The following story was written by Lyndsay Winkley and originally posted on the San Diego Union Tribune website.

There's a house cat in San Diego that's probably thinking pretty big of itself today.

That's because someone spotted the feline on security video and mistook it for a mountain lion Wednesday morning. The "sighting" prompted more than 60 employees to evacuate from a 92,000-square-foot warehouse in the South County neighborhood of Ocean View Hills [California] before a closer look revealed it was, in fact, just a cat.

Overnight, a security guard had seen lights flickering on and off inside the GTM Discount General Store warehouse on Corporate Center Drive. When the owner arrived in the morning, the guard told him what he saw.

"He thought we had a critter in here and he was definitely right," said Debbi Fieten, who works with human resources at the warehouse.

After the owner watched footage from the night before, he called police about 7:40 a.m.

"They said there was a mountain lion in their warehouse that they could see through surveillance cameras," said San Diego police Officer Joshua Hodge.

Employees evacuated and waited for the authorities. Officers arrived, watched the video, and decided to call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to handle the animal.

"The first video was black and white, and the angle made it look like it was a pretty good size," Fieten said.

But while everyone was waiting for game wardens to arrive, employees decided to look at footage from other cameras around the facility. That's when they determined the "mountain lion" was "just a cat," Fieten said.

She said the cat may be pregnant and she hopes it can be found once everything quiets down. If that doesn't work, they plan to leave some food out to hopefully coax her into the open.

"We hope we can locate her," Fieten said.

* It should be noted that according to experts somewhere between 80 to 90 percent of all mountain lion sightings prove to be false. Unfortunately these false sightings help generate the mass hysteria and fear that surrounds these magnificent creatures, and are used by some state game agencies to justify killing more lions.

Video courtesy of abc10.
(Article #1658) To read the actual news story click here...

It's not just Cecil: Trophy hunting is threatening mountain lions right here in the U.S. (11/13/2015)
The following story was written by freelance writer, Chelsea Harvey for the Washington Post

In July, the death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe at the hands of trophy hunter Walter Palmer sparked international outrage, incited widespread debate about the ethics of trophy hunting, and provoked calls to the U.S. government to ban the import of trophies from other countries. But some conservationists are arguing that people in the United States should be paying more attention to the trophy hunting of our own lions - mountain lions, that is.

The Humane Society of the United States, along with other wildlife advocacy groups, has expressed concern numerous times in the past few years about proposals by state wildlife agencies to increase cougar hunting without considering the best science on cougar management, or taking majority public opinion into account. Such hunts are almost exclusively carried out for sport or trophies.

Currently, the only cougar populations in the country that have federal protection are the Florida panther and the Eastern cougar, the latter of which is believed extinct and has been proposed for delisting under the Endangered Species Act. Most other populations are unprotected and spread throughout the West, where the only state that currently forbids cougar hunting is California [Thanks to MLF and its supporters].

In the past year, nearly half a dozen states - including Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington - have proposed an increase in cougar hunting quotas for a variety of reasons, including the desire to reduce human conflict, protect livestock or increase native deer populations. These proposals have been made despite recent research suggesting that overhunting actually causes more conflicts with humans.

One of the most recent instances occurred in Washington state, where Gov. Jay Inslee just reversed a controversial new rule from the state's wildlife management agency that would have expanded cougar hunting, allowing a harvest rate of up to 21 percent of the population in some areas, without allowing for a public comment period first. The new rule was hastily passed during an April meeting of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and met with immediate outrage from advocacy groups, including the Humane Society, which appealed the decision.

The expanded hunting was proposed for regions of the state also occupied by wolves in an attempt to quell the concerns of citizens concerned that living in close proximity to two large predators - instead of just one - could cause an increased risk of conflict. The wolf is a protected species in Washington and currently cannot be hunted, so the state proposed cutting down on cougars.

But a cougar harvest rate of 21 percent would have likely only produced more problems, according to [Dr.] Rob Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, who has been at the forefront of cougar research for the past several decades.

The problem with killing off too many big cats

Killing off too many cougars can cause demographic problems in the cats' populations, Wielgus said. Male cougars are territorial. If you kill off one male, other (usually younger) males will move into the area to take his place. Invading younger males will seek out females in the territory and frequently kill any existing cubs in order to make room for their own offspring.
Image of cover of Troubled Teens article.
This influx of young males can cause a number of conflicts. First, young male cougars tend to "get in trouble," said Howard Quigley, puma program director for Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization. "It's kind of like in a human society, if you had a bunch of teenagers running around," he said.

These young males are the ones usually responsible for preying on livestock and otherwise causing problems with humans, said Wielgus. Additionally, female cougars often go into hiding to protect their cubs if younger males start invading their territories, Wielgus added. This means they sometimes end up hiding out in places they previously didn't inhabit and start eating animals they didn't prey on before.

"Basically the bottom line was this heavy hunting of cougars was actually causing all the problems we were seeing," Wielgus said of his work in Washington.

Cougar-related problems in the state largely dissipated once an appropriate hunting quota was established, according to Wielgus. The harvest rate is currently set at 12 to 16 percent of the population. Wielgus's research in Washington, along with other studies in Montana, has suggested that cougar populations tend to increase at a rate of 12 percent - meaning a hunting quota of 12 percent or lower is best for maintaining stable cougar populations and minimizing conflict with humans. *

But state wildlife management agencies don't always want to abide by the 12-percent quota - and it's not just limited to Washington.

Many states contemplating changes

In Utah, state wildlife management officials decided this year to slightly increase cougar hunting quotas in an effort to protect mule deer and bighorn sheep. In its updated cougar management plan, the Division of Wildlife Resources points to a set of management guidelines from 2005 that suggest cougar populations can sustain a harvest rate of 20 to 30 percent of the population, while also acknowledging Wielgus' more recent research that indicates the average growth rate of a cougar population is 12 percent.

And in Colorado, state officials recently proposed increasing harvest rates in certain areas, mostly surrounding the town of Westcliffe, by up to 46 percent in a research project aimed at doubling local mule deer populations. The proposal would have increased the harvest limit in the area from 24 cats to 35 - potentially up to 50 percent of the cougar population in that area, according to Keefover. This proposal was later withdrawn.

But it's not just the increase in hunting quotas that's bothering scientists and conservationists. It's the reasons for doing so.

Photo of laying lion mouth open appears to be smiling.In several recent cases, the rationale behind proposing an increased harvest is to protect livestock or increase prey populations, frequently mule deer. This was the case in Colorado, and was also the motivation behind a recent decision in Oregon to increase hunting by 25 percent. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife pointed to recent research indicating that elk populations in the state increased when cougars were removed.

But there have also been at least four studies so far indicating that removing cougars doesn't do much to help mule deer populations, according to Quigley, the Panthera puma expert. Such research suggests that habitat degradation is the critical factor in declining mule deer.

Additionally, Wendy Keefover, native carnivore protection manager for The Humane Society of the United States, pointed to research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggesting that predators, and particularly cougars, account for a relatively small percentage of losses in livestock. And out of the livestock killed by predation, cougars usually accounted for less than 10 percent of the losses, although this number can rise as high as 15 percent for sheep and lambs in some areas.

Still, losses due to predation can add up to millions of dollars per year, so it's an issue that the industry takes seriously.

The problem, Wielgus said, is that pressure from lobbying groups can cause wildlife agencies to enact management practices meant to appease the industry without taking the best science into consideration.

On top of this, the public is sometimes not given an adequate opportunity to voice its opinion on proposed management changes, Keefover said. Washington is just one example.

When the Colorado proposal was being considered, for instance, the Humane Society decried the Parks and Wildlife Commission's failure to hold the legally required three hearings and give 30 days notice for public comment in a letter to the Commission.

When that proposal was withdrawn, the Colorado Division of Wildlife cited "the extensive amount of comment provided by the public in response to the draft proposal to evaluate the relationship between mountain lion and mule deer populations, and to allow for additional public comment and participation," as the reason in a release.

"I think there's this public antipathy to trophy hunting cougars at the same time we have all these agencies pushing for more trophy hunting," Keefover said.

But it does seem that there's some hope for the cougar. While increased hunting has been proposed in a handful of states in the past year, it's only been finalized in a few, including New Mexico, Utah and Oregon. In other places, such as Washington and South Dakota, the rules were overturned. And in Nebraska, state Sen. Ernie Chambers is pushing to end cougar hunting, which has been allowed for several years now, on a population believed to number fewer than 30 individuals.

The cougar's story can be thought of as a "two-edged sword," according to Quigley.

"It's a wonderful success story that we still have this large carnivore across most of the Western states and they're increasing their pawprint into the Midwest," he said. "That really to me says that we're creating the environment for the expansion of mountain lions in North America.

"On the other hand," he added, "I think it's these steps backward that really worry me and other lion biologists in that it seems like there's much more difficulty with these game agencies to come to grips with accepting some of these modern approaches."

* The Mountain Lion Foundation acknowledges the 12 percent population growth figure, but believes that mortality quotas set at this level or above are short sighted and only deal with the species at a localized level. Those remaining states where mountain lions still have a viable population are incubators for the natural recolonization of the North American continent. These populations should be encouraged to grow and disperse into new lands - not continually forced to reestablish existing territory that has been artificially opened by the human-caused death of resident lions.
(Article #1657) To read the actual news story click here...

Lion Cub Captured in San Dimas (11/9/2015)
A few lucky residents in the city of San Dimas (Los Angeles County) experienced a rare sighting of a mountain lion cub on Sunday night.

Around 7:30 p.m. a patrol deputy spotted the young cat and called for backup. It took about an hour of following the animal until officers were able to corner him in a parking lot near a bowling alley.

The lion was captured in a large fishing-type net, and then secured with a catch pole. The feisty kitten was then loaded into an animal control vehicle and taken to a shelter for the night. It appeared no tranquilizer drugs were needed, which simplified the procedures and personnel required to capture the cat. California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists will monitor and evaluate the cub before deciding what to do next.
Photo of lion mouth open in net being carried.
San Dimas is located at the base of a mountain range and contains canyons, regional parks and golf courses — areas that attract deer and potentially lions from Angeles National Forest.

The rescued cub appears to be approximately five months old; far too young to survive in the wild on its own. Mother lions frequently stash their cubs while they hunt. But with roadkill, rodenticide poisoning, depredation kills, and poaching on the rise, unfortunately lion kittens sometimes find themselves orphaned.

It is unknown what happened to this lion's mother and siblings. A veterinary exam may provide additional information on the cub's age and health. Most likely he will be taken in by a sanctuary or zoo.

A mountain lion was seen wandering around a San Dimas neighborhood before it was captured Sunday night. Video from abc7
(Article #1656) To read the actual news story click here...

Nebraska postpones lion hunt due to excessive female mortalities (10/29/2015)
Citing too many female lions killed in 2014, Sam Wilson, the Nebraska Game Commission's carnivore program manager, recently announced that Nebraska's moratorium on hunting mountain lions would extend at least through the 2016 hunting season.

In 2014, the Nebraska Game Commission, over objections from noted biologists and the conservation community, decided that a regulated hunting season was needed to properly manage the state's estimated lion population of around 22 animals.

By the end of the year, five lions had been shot by hunters, and an additional 11 had died from illegal hunting, traps or being hit by vehicles. Ten of the 16 lions killed by humans were females.

Due in part to the public outcry over those deaths, and worried about the legislative efforts of State Senator Ernie Chambers to remove the Commission's authority to even implement a lion hunt, the Commission placed a hunting moratorium on mountain lions, and a multi-year research project was initiated by Nebraska Department of Game and Parks (NDGP) to determine the size of Nebraska's lion population, its impact on prey species, and how lions move around and use habitat.

Wilson told the Commissioners that "It's [hunting] not off the table," but research results will dictate whether the Department's biologists recommend a future hunting season for the game animal.

Since the study was instigated last February, NDGP researchers have captured and radio-collared seven lions using cages baited with road-kill deer.

The study's researchers hope to collar as many as 15 mountain lions in the Pine Ridge, Wildcat Hills and Niobrara River Valley during the four-year research project.
(Article #1655) To read the actual news story click here...

Cougar kittens rescued after mother killed (10/26/2015)
The following story by Rich Landers is reposted from the Great Falls Tribune.

"I am not naÏve about nature," said Dan Hansen, after returning last weekend from a fishing trip. "I know there's no easy way to die in the woods. Still, I wasn't prepared for what I saw this morning."

Even though he's a hunter, the Spokane Valley sportsman said he was disturbed by two orphaned critters in an graphic situation.

"We'd just descended the last switchback on State Highway 129, and were a mile from the Grande Ronde River, when I spotted a cougar kitten on the side of the road. We stopped and saw another.

"One was gnawing on old roadkill — nothing left but sun-baked bones, skin and hooves — and the other was bedded nearby. I rolled down the window, and started snapping pictures."

Hansen and his fishing partner expected the mother to be close by.

"We watched for a while, and the feeding kitten tugged at the floppy foreleg of the carcass. That's when I realized that it wasn't a hoof, but the paw of a fully grown cougar. The bedded kitten rose, and we could see its ribs and hipbones.

"Sickened, we headed to Boggan's Oasis, and asked the gal behind the counter for the number of Fish and Wildlife. 'You saw the cougars,' she said. 'The mother was hit a month ago.'"

Wildlife officers had been contacted and one had showed up two weeks earlier, according to Madonna Luers, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman.

"He left the carcass of the mother alone since it was off the road and not a hazard," she said. "He collected one dead kitten, but found no sign indicating there were two more."

The sighting haunted the fishermen.

Photo of two skinny cougar cubs in brush.

"Throughout the day, one or the other of us would mention the cats," Hansen recalled. "If we caught a hatchery steelhead, maybe we could drop it off for them. For what purpose? To stave off starvation for a week?

"If we had a gun, we could put them out of their misery — an act both humane and illegal."

The two men headed back up the highway at the end of the day and found two trucks at the site of the roadkill, one bearing the Washington Fish and Wildlife emblem. The other pickup belonged to a houndsman. The dogs were baying up in the woods.

Hansen thought that was the bitter end. But it wasn't.

The surviving kittens, a male and female, were captured by the houndsman and officer Matt Sabo and turned over to Rich Beausoleil, the department's cougar and bear specialist in Wenatchee.

Beausoleil alleviated some of the fishermen's anxiety by assuring them that the kittens hadn't survived in a Donner Party scenario of feeding on their mother's carcass. The young were just being weaned when she was killed. The carcass likely was picked clean by scavengers as kittens took refuge in nearby trees.

"They were starving," Beausoleil said. "They were skin and bones, about 10 pound each, which is 50 percent of the normal weight at age 7 to 8 weeks.

Beausoleil immediately advertised the kittens to a network of American Zoological Association facilities across the country. While the kittens were in caring hands going into this weekend, the pair of 7-week old kittens two options: Placement in a zoo or being put down.

"Bear cubs can be successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild, but that doesn't work for cougar kittens," Luers said.

"The big difference is that bears are omnivores with lots of food options. Cougars are carnivores and humans don't have an effective way to teach a baby mountain lion how to hunt for its food."

After a week-long search, the two cougar kittens from Asotin County were placed Monday with Alexandria Zoological Park in Alexandria, La. They flew out Tuesday morning.

In 15 years, the agency's staff had captured 35 orphaned cougars and transferred the kittens to facilities across the county. "Those mountain lions from Washington are seen across the country by 25 million people a year who are enjoying and appreciating them, and hopefully learning something about them," Luers said.

The Grande Ronde kittens will bring the number to 37 orphaned cougars from Washington becoming wildlife ambassadors.

(Article #1654) To read the actual news story click here...

WA Governor overrules Game Commission; reverses 2016 cougar hunting quota increase (10/21/2015)
The following story was written by Rich Landers and originally posted on the Spokesman-Review website.

Answering an appeal filed by eight wildlife-protection groups, Gov. Jay Inslee has struck down increases in cougar hunting quotas approved for this year by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Inslee said an amendment proposed at the April commission meeting to increase cougar hunting quotas by one-to-three animals in some designated areas was done without proper advance notice to the public. The citizen panel approved the increase by a 7-1 vote.

This may be the first time a Washington governor has forced the reversal of an action taken by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, said Bruce Botka, state Fish and Wildlife Department (WDFW) spokesman in Olympia.

"We will be reviewing the governor's action with our assistant attorneys general and the commission and will identify management options moving forward," Botka said. "We had already planned to work with the commission next spring to review cougar hunting rules for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons."

Inslee announced his action Monday in a letter to the Humane Society of the United States as well as other parties involved in the administrative appeal - the Center for Biological Diversity, Mountain Lion Foundation, Wolf Haven International, The Cougar Fund, The Lands Council (based in Spokane), Predator Defense, Kettle Range Conservation Group and Gary Koehler, a former Fish and Wildlife Department research scientist.

The groups pointed out that in the published proposal going into the April meeting, state wildlife managers had proposed quotas estimated to be 12-16 percent of the cougar population in designated game management areas.

[WDFW] Biologists wrote that this was a "sustainable harvest rate" for mountain lions. They also pointed out in the proposal that "harvest rates in excess of 16 percent can result in declines in core populations of breeding females, and excessive male harvest rates result in the loss of adult male territorial (behavior), which acts as a regulatory mechanism for local male cougar members."

Based on those statements in the published proposal, the groups appealed saying that the public had no reason to suspect Commissioner Miranda Wecker of Naselle would offer a last-minute amendment to slightly increase the quotas.

After the groups' June 30 rulemaking appeal to the commission was denied by the panel in August, the groups stepped up the appeal to the governor.

In proposing her cougar quota increase at the April 9-10 meeting, Wecker said, "The logic is that we have tremendous social conflict under way. I don't believe that in any of these GMUs the small changes that I've proposed will make a difference in the health of cougar populations. I've been assured by staff that is the case. . . .

"It will have a beneficial effect, I believe, of giving some consideration to that communities that live in these GMUs in which wolf packs are now operating."

The commission then voted to increase the restrictive cougar harvest guideline to 17-21 percent in several Eastern Washington game management areas.

Inslee's decision is based on a procedural rule and does not address the wildlife biology involved.

But the appealing groups are quick to fill that gap.

"The Fish and Wildlife Commission decided to kill more cougars after ignoring the public and its own scientists," said Collette Adkins, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Its knee-jerk decision needed to be reversed, and we're overjoyed that the governor agreed with us."

"The commission's decision also ignored a 13-year, Washington-based scientific study that cost taxpayers approximately $5 million," she said. "The study showed that killing cougars at such high levels might exacerbate conflicts with people and livestock and would do nothing to prevent future cougar attacks or make people safer."

But hunters, who tend to be seeing a remarkable number of cougars this year, say the animal groups are making the cougar quota situation a bigger deal than it is.

"I am 100 percent in support of the quota system and protecting cat populations," said Bart George, a wildlife biologist with the Kalispel Tribe and a houndsman often called by state wildlife officials to help them deal with problem cougars and bears.

However, George says, a "12-14 percent harvest rate is a worthless measure (for indicating sustainable cougar numbers) when we have no idea what the population is. It's an estimate at best. The whole thing is a bad joke."
(Article #1653) To read the actual news story click here...

South Dakota drops lion hunting quota to 60 (10/5/2015)
The South Dakota Game Commission voted over the weekend to reduce the 2016 Black Hills mountain lion hunting quota to 60 lions from the previous year's 75.

Some conservationists see this action as a first move by the Commission in recognizing that the lion population in the Black Hills has been over hunted. Opponents claim that the last two years of dismal hunting results are more a factor of bad hunting conditions (lack of snow) rather than a lack of lions.

In addition, the Commission decided to postpone for two years the agency's revenue making scheme of industrializing mountain lion hunting with out of state trophy hunters.

(Article #1651) To read the actual news story click here...

SoCal Mountain lion climbs 35-foot tall power-line pole (9/30/2015)
The accompanying photo was taken by Lucerne Valley Daily Press Staff Writer Peter Day

Late yesterday afternoon, drivers on a rural highway, just outside the Southern California community of Lucerne Valley, experienced a rare sight - a mountain lion sitting atop a 35-foot high wooden power-line pole.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens who were on site monitoring the situation, the animal apparently was frightened by some type of human activity and sought safety in the heights above.

In an effort to coax the lion down from his lethal perch, the wardens were asking passersby to continue onward and not stop to view the unusual spectacle.

However, the lion apparently didn't feel safe enough to return to the earth before darkness fell.

As of this time, CDFW has not yet released word on the mountain lion's fate.

Photo of lion on power-line pole (Article #1648) To read the actual news story click here...

Mountain lion kitten rescued from California wildfire (9/17/2015)
Out of the ashes of California's recent mega-fires, a little miracle emerged.

Last week, Bobbie Carne and her fellow animal rescuers were saving abandoned pets and livestock along the edges of the Butte fire. During their search she and a couple young girls came across a slightly scorched mountain lion kitten.

Allowing itself to be picked up and removed from danger, the frightened animal was sent to a wildlife care center near the Central Valley community of Turlock and eventually passed on to a California Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) warden for delivery to the Department's Wildlife Investigation Laboratory for a medical evaluation.

While the Mountain Lion Foundation is grateful to Ms. Carne for saving this lion kitten's life, we want to caution others about following her example.

First, mountain lion kittens are not necessarily sweet cuddly pets. While it didn't happen in this case, picking one up could expose you to the possibility of being bitten or scratched.

Second, while this kitten is alive, it will now spend the rest of its life as a captive animal. It's not the current policy of CDFW to rehabilitate and release mountain lion kittens that are too young to survive on their own.

Third, though there apparently was no sign of a mother lion or siblings in the immediate vicinity, it's not uncommon for the mother of a kitten of this age to be roaming far from the den in search of food. It's possible that the mother lion did return to find her kitten gone.

Remember, it's important to do everything possible to keep California's wildlife in the wild.

That said . . . . Thank you Bobbie Carne, and helpers! And good luck Fireclaw.

Photo of lion cub on log
For more information on the law, policies and requirements, visit mountain lion rescue and rehab in California.

(Article #1647) To read the actual news story click here...

Nation's largest mountain lion "bridge" proposed for southern California's highway 101 (9/4/2015)
Earlier this week, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority released a long-awaited study by Caltrans concluding that building the nation's largest wildlife "bridge" over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills was feasible.

Projected to cost $33 million to $38 million, the 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long overpass, complete with drought-tolerant vegetation, near Liberty Canyon Road would connect the Santa Monica Mountains on the south with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.

If built, it could reduce the number of young mountain lions currently being killed as they tried to disperse and establish home territories. Over the past 13 years, around a dozen lions have been hit and killed by automobiles in this same general area.

Liberty Canyon has long been considered as the optimal location to build a wildlife corridor because of the large swaths of protected public land on either side of the freeway.

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority report was the necessary first step toward a final design. Caltrans will now begin preparing the required environmental document, funded by a $1-million grant from the California Coastal Conservancy. The public will be asked to present comments during that phase, which runs through 2017.

Photo of aerial view of proposed wildlife bridge.

(Article #1646) To read the actual news story click here...

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