Articles, opinions, and editorials about mountain
lions and the Mountain Lion Foundation. (Formatted for viewing on mobile devices - to view on
your computer click here.) Shut Your Big Trap!
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!
Happy Birthday, Charles! You were a lion!
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.
Click 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
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.
Colorado's First Wildlife Bridge
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:
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
Lion Confirmed in Tennessee!
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.
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!
THANK NYE NEVADA SHERIFF FOR TELLING US THE TRUTH
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.
LAUGHABLY LOW PENALTIES IN MONTANA LION CRIMES
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."
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."
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:
Write letters to the Montana Attorney Seneral and to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department involved in this case to thank them for prosecuting wildlife crimes. Wildlife is a valuable resource and violators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Office of the Attorney General
Justice Building, Third Floor
215 North Sanders
P.O. Box 201401
Helena, MT 59620-1401
Phone: (406) 444-2026
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
1420 East Sixth Avenue
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701
Phone: (406) 444-2535
Fax: (406) 444-4952
But encourage Montana's and your state's governor and legislators to increase fines and jail time for those convicted. Your voice can make a difference.
Office of the Governor
PO Box 200801
Helena MT 59620-0801
Toll Free: 855-318-1330
Email: on web from Contact Montana's Governor
MLF Attends Rangeland Summit
Staff and volunteers attended the California Rangeland Summit to network with many of the most committed ranchers and conservationists in the state.
The day-long meeting dealt specifically with wildfire and rangeland management, and was focused on mediating the impacts of wildfires like those experienced in California in 2015 to rangelands dedicated to wildlife, conservation and ranching.
The summit addressed challenges and opportunities to improve rangeland management, to reduce the scope and severity of catastrophic wildfire and to reduce the impacts of wildfire to ranch sustainability and conservation interests.
Mountain Lion Foundation attended in order to learn more about the difficulties ranchers face in conserving wildlife, especially when both ecosystems and economic systems are stressed by catastrophic events. Through better understanding, we hope to find innovative solutions to traditionally difficult problems.
MLF also provided ideas for non-lethal methods for dealing with mountain lion conflicts, and set future meetings with landowners, grazing operators, agencies and advocacy groups.
In particular Mountain Lion Foundation volunteer Fauna Tomlinson presented information about Foxlight, a new frightening device that is showing great promise in keeping wild animals away from domestic livestock.
You can learn more about Foxlight by viewing the YouTube video that describes how it's been used in Australia to protect sheep from foxes. A plastic container that sits atop a fencepost flashes 9 LED's in patterns to scare away predators. There are two versions, one solar and one battery powered.
Many other methods -- from penning, to shed birthing, to guard animals -- were also discussed.
Thank you Utah: Another Cougar Relocation!
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.
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.
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.
"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 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
No Need or Justification to Hunt Lions in Nebraska
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.
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.
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
P.O. Box 94604
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.
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.
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.
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!
What are the odds?
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.
Kellogg Leaves California Commission Mid-Term
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..."
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
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.
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
Mountain Lion Season Ends Abruptly
The following story by Lauren Donovan is reposted from Inforum.com
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.
"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."
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.
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.
Celebrity Lion Killed in Montana
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.
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.
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.
Lions still lurk in Buffalo Valley
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.
"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.
"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.
"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."
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.
Relocated Lion Sparks Rehab Debate
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.
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.
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.
Cougar Cubs Rescued in Oroville
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.
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.
Mountain Lion Relocated from Pacific Grove
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.
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.
Fighting to Bring Panthers Back from the Brink
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.
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.
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.
New Mountain Lion Found in the Santa Monica Mtns
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
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.
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
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.
It's not just Cecil: Trophy hunting is threatening mountain lions right here in the U.S.
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.
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.
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...