Articles, opinions, and editorials about mountain lions and the Mountain Lion Foundation.
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Assembly Bill 1784 Passed! (7/23/2012)
On Friday, July 13th, California Assembly Bill 1784 - authorizing scientific research on mountain lions in California - was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, making the bill a law. AB 1784, introduced by Assembly Member Bill Monning, is the culmination of work that occurred over more than a year by the Mountain Lion Foundation and other concerned parties to restore lion research after the California Department of Fish and Game suddenly decided at the beginning of 2011 that there was no legal statute allowing them to authorize research on mountain lions.
These crucial research projects are helping us better understand the health of the species and to identify and protect the critical habitat and wildlife corridors upon which lions depend.
While MLF wanted to see these projects continue, the protection of lions is our top priority and we are well aware that not all studies titled "research" are in the best interest of the mountain lions. For example, researchers in other states are conducting studies to see what happens to deer when most of the lions in a particular area are suddenly killed off. Sport hunting is also considered to be a form of scientific research in many western states. It was difficult to write an amendment that would evaluate all projects, prohibit those that might harm a lion, and to still allow those necessary projects that truly help to protect California's lions.
Just as Proposition 117 was a landmark initiative in 1990 to protect mountain lions from sport hunters, AB 1784 is a groundbreaking step in authorizing humane scientific research. Among other things, it explicitly requires that projects be designed to support the survival of the species, not to intentionally kill any lions, keep detailed records, and also make reported information available to the public. During many of the discussions over drafted language, MLF was frequently criticized for putting in parameters that were "stricter than regulations on endangered species!"
But MLF did not back down. We think America's lion deserves the highest level of protection... can you blame us?
Today, not only are we pleased AB 1784 has passed, but we are proud to learn it is now being considered by other animal protection organizations as a model for wildlife research legislation. Thank you to everyone who contacted Governor Brown, shared the alert, and helped pass AB 1784!
Click here to read AB 1784.
Click here to view the original Action Alert. (Article #1382) To read the actual news story click here...
Lion Captured in Orange County, California (7/17/2012)
A young mountain lion that was spotted multiple times over the weekend in Orange County's Whiting Ranch Regional Park was captured by California Department of Fish and Game wardens early Tuesday morning (7/17/2012).
The lion was first seen on July 9th along the popular Serrano Cow Trail, and confirmed tracks in the nearby creek bed prompted officials to close the trail to pedestrians until the lion had moved on. Mountain lions roam large tracts of land and rarely stay put in any given location for more than a few days. Park employees set up motion-activated cameras in the area. They found no further evidence of the lion over the next four days and reopened the trail on the 13th.
Then over the weekend a hiker posted a video of a coyote and a mountain lion encountering each other along the trail. On Monday, a warden revisited the area and after spotting the lion, attempted to haze him away with beanbag rounds and a pepper ball. The lion became nervous and moved around a bit, but did not flee far away as the warden had hoped.
Although the lion had shown no aggression towards people or domestic animals, because the park is actively used by residents in the Los Angeles area, they decided to capture the cat to reduce any possible risk to the public. The mountain lion was baited with fresh roadkill into a large cage trap.
Based on the behavior, officials had initially guessed the lion was a mother and refused to leave the area because she had kittens nearby. But once in the trap, it turned out it was a young (18-24 month old) male. This is about the age when lions leave their mothers to disperse and find their own territories. Sometimes the mother lion knows when it's time to kick the little ones out of the nest and she will abandon her offspring at the edge of her territory. It may take a few days for the cats to start trekking to a new region. But whatever the scenario, Fish and Game officials felt the need to remove this young cat from the wilderness area.
Early Tuesday morning the lion was transported to Lake Forest for a visit with feline expert Dr. Scott Weldy. In an interview with the OC Register, Dr. Weldy noted the lion "appears to be in good shape but has a lot of ticks."
California Department of Fish and Game officials reported they still have not decided what to do with the lion: release, place into captivity, or euthanize. However, recent conversations appear to indicate they may be leaning towards placing the cat with a zoo or wildlife sanctuary facility. Others are still trying to persuade the department to give this lion a chance in the wild since his age makes him the perfect candidate for relocation.
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(Article #1381) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain Lion Meeting Rescheduled: Rapid City, SD (7/13/2012)
The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department has rescheduled one of its upcoming public meetings to discuss mountain lion management. The open house meeting has been moved from July 18th to August 7th, 2012. It will be held at the agency's Outdoor Campus West facility in Rapid City from 6-9 p.m.
SDGF&P officials say that by pushing the date back a few weeks, their "staff will be able to share more specific information on lion populations and projected harvest goals for the upcoming season."
The public will then have "an opportunity to provide input during the official comment period for the proposal and to share their opinions on the Commission's proposal that will be adopted in early August," said Mike Kintigh, regional supervisor for western South Dakota.
Upcoming Dates to Keep in Mind:
(Article #1380) To read the actual news story click here...
Community Mountain Lion Artist/Activist (7/11/2012)
It's summertime! School's out; folks are firing up the barbeque, visiting local fairs, and heading out on camping trips. For residents in the foothills, it's also a good time to brush up on mountain lion safety. This is exactly what Criesta Jerray had in mind when her town began getting ready for Banners On Parade - an annual art festival where contestants create banners that are displayed on Main Street lampposts every summer.
Mrs. Jerray lives in Placerville, California which is located between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada foothills. This landscape is home to mountain lions but is also a hot spot for depredation (lions being killed for preying on unprotected livestock). To help raise awareness for Placerville's "four legged neighbors," as she warmly calls them, Mrs. Jerray painted a beautiful lion banner and makes time to talk with residents in town about ways to coexist.
"It's unbelievable how misinformed the majority of citizens are [...] People really don't believe lions are around, and that's what's so scary and dangerous - for themselves, their families, and the American Lion," Mrs. Jerray commented.
Over the years, Mrs. Jerray has a seen a lion or two pass through her own front yard. But because they are such stealthy creatures, most people living in lion country will never catch a glimpse of the elusive American lion. As a result, it makes sense that Mrs. Jerray's neighbors may not realize they are living in prime lion habitat and should take extra precautions.
"My banner was painted to gently remind the community of our native neighbors," Mrs. Jerray explained. Adding, "Seeing is believing. Maybe my banner will help those that cannot believe, to see."
Click here to view the banner.
A special thank you to Criesta Jerray for utilizing her artistic talents to promote coexistence with the American lion. We hope she wins this year's contest!
Tell us what you're doing to help lions and we may feature your story in our next newsletter!
(Article #1379) To read the actual news story click here...
Lion Attack: A Case of Mistaken Identity? (7/2/2012)
Early Sunday morning (July 1, 2012) a 63-year-old California man became the 15th victim of a mountain lion attack in California since 1890. His injuries were non-life threatening and he was released after a short visit to the hospital.
The Bay Area man was on a hiking trip in Nevada County and stopped for the night along the Yuba River. He laid his sleeping bag on the ground, crawled in and went to sleep. Around 1:00 a.m. he was suddenly awoken by a mountain lion clawing and biting his sleeping bag. After a minute or two of fighting the lion, the cat backed away. The man said the cat watched him for about 15 to 30 seconds from a 15 foot distance, and then it took off into the trees.
The man hiked back to his vehicle and drove to a hospital in Grass Valley to get his scratches and bites checked out. The California Department of Fish and Game responded to the hospital. Officers verified the man's injuries and collected samples from his clothing and sleeping bag. The evidence has been sent to CDFG's forensics lab in Sacramento for further analysis.
CDFG wardens investigated the man's camping spot and found lion tracks. They used hounds in an attempt to track down the lion but were unsuccessful, only able to locate the remains of a housecat which may have been attacked by a lion. They are continuing the search.
Why Did This Happen?
Mountain lion attacks on people are extremely rare and almost always the result of a sick lion or a case of mistaken identity. Lions see movement and shapes better than they do fine detail, and experts believe some attacks may have happened because the person was acting similar to a deer: a lion's preferred prey. For example, a bicyclist hunched over looks like a deer running through the trees.
Lions hunt by stealth and try to take their prey down with one quick bite to the neck. Rather than making a precision attack, this particular cat appeared curious and confused as it scratched and bit at the man in the sleeping bag.
Mountain lions, especially young juveniles still perfecting their hunting skills will sometimes scavenge from the kills of other animals and even other lions. Because lions cache their prey -- covering the animal with leaves and sticks between meals -- the hiker in the sleeping bag may have looked like a freshly cached meal. When the potential meal fought back the lion quickly retreated which may further support this theory.
Lion attacks remain exceptionally rare, even in California where the largest population of lions in the United States (approximately 4,000 cats) coexists with over 37 million people. Most victims are able to fend off lions by fighting back.
Lab results will indicate if this particular mountain lion was ill but the odds are he was merely a bit too curious. Perhaps this experience taught him to be wary of people and avoid free food, but if he's found by CDFG officials, curiosity will have inevitably killed this cat.
July 10, 2012 UPDATE - CDFG Calling Off the Search
After ten days of unsuccessful searching for the mountain lion, the California Department of Fish and Game has called off the hunt. Tracking dogs were unable to pick up a clear scent. At one point the dogs treed a large male lion, but from saliva evidence left on the man's sleeping bag the Department knew the lion they were searching for was a female. They let the male lion go free and were unable to find the lion responsible for the incident earlier this month.
Likely this young female lion was a dispersing juvenile, still perfecting her hunting skills and searching for an available homerange. After the scuffle with the hiker she was probably shaken and decided to find some where else to establish a territory. Hopefully she's learned people should be avoided and has found a new, more remote habitat to call home.
(Article #1376) To read the actual news story click here...
Four Young South Dakota Lions Killed (6/28/2012)
The massive annual slaughter of the state's mountain lion population is beginning to show some negative side effects.
In just eleven days, four mountain lions near the Black Hills of South Dakota have wandered too close to town and been killed for public safety. None of the cats had threatened people or domestic animals. However, because officials on the SD Game Fish & Parks Commission want to significantly reduce the state's lion population, there is no motivation for wardens to haze or relocate these lost cats back into the wild.
South Dakota's lion population is in trouble. There isn't much suitable lion habitat to begin with (only about 5,220 square miles) which could support a small island-like population of about 230 resident cats. But this is more than managers want, and for the past few years they've been on the war path increasing sport quotas and facilitating the death of an ever-increasing number of lions (a record 73 lions were killed for sport in SD during the first sixty days of this year). They've even failed to reprimand hunters who have shot kittens — a violation of the state's hunting rules and clearly unsportsmanlike behavior.
With the naive hope that less lions means less conflicts, some managers and local ranchers are now confused as to why there's a sudden increase in juvenile lions wandering into town.
Looking to the science for answers, lion researchers have found that when sport hunting gets out of hand and kills too many adult lions, the ratio of juveniles increases. These young cats are still inexperienced hunters, learning how to find and establish their own territories, and are more likely to come in contact with people. The proportion of males also increases since juvenile males from neighboring areas will disperse into the region to fill open habitats. Females rarely travel as far and are more likely to avoid areas with too many young males. Male lions will kill kittens in an attempt to breed with females, and their sudden influx creates extra competition for resources. In a nutshell: experts believe the natural social structure of South Dakota's lion population is unraveling, leaving a chaotic group of youngsters.
Read Troubled Teens for more information about the research on teenage male lions.
While some Department managers appear to understand what is going on, others are using the public safety incidents to further their case that the lion population is booming out of control and must continue to be heavily hunted. Caught in the middle of the debate, Regional Wildlife Manager John Kanta noted, "This comes at a time when some people already think we have a lot more lions than we're saying we do. They'll think this proves it. [...] But there are also folks who worry about hurting the lion population who will say this is what happens when you increase the harvest and disrupt the family groups."
Unfortunately, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commissioners refuse to base their lion management decisions on scientific publications or even maintain the lower quotas proposed by their own agency staff. Now we are seeing they are responsible not only for the 70+ lions killed through their annual sport season, but also very likely the orphaned and dispersing juveniles who make the fatal mistake of wandering too close to town.
(Article #1375) To read the actual news story click here...
MLF Reposts its Timeline of Lion Mortality in the U.S. (6/15/2012)
The status of mountain lions is very much in question. Every day, our remaining lions are threatened by human population growth, poaching, hunting, development, pollution, and habitat loss (learn more about Active Threats to the Species). The true health of populations in the United States, Mexico, Central and South America is virtually unknown.
We don't know how many lions are left, but we do have an idea of how many we are killing. And unfortunately, that mortality number continues to grow, as lions are left with smaller and smaller patches of habitat in the West.
To help Americans better understand of the history of our nation's lethal interaction with Puma concolor, the Mountain Lion Foundation has reposted an updated version of its Timeline of Bounty and Sport Hunting of Mountain Lions in the U.S. This enlightening portrayal of America's persecution of the species was mentioned on the Scientific American Magazine blog as part of its coverage of the recently published "Cougars are recolonizing the midwest: Analysis of cougar confirmations during 1990-2008" by Michelle LaRue and Dr. Clayton Nielsen (read our feature story) about the return of mountain lions to the Midwest after their extirpation more than a hundred years ago.
Evidence is showing most of these lions are coming from the Black Hills region which lies on the border of Wyoming and South Dakota. For more information about the lions that have traveled into Midwestern states, be sure to also visit MLF's Missouri state page.
In addition, MLF is also making available, free to the public, a printed, color copy of its 11" x 17" Where Do We Go From Here poster which can be seen at the bottom of the timeline.
To receive a copy of the poster, please use this form to send your mailing address.
(Article #1374) To read the actual news story click here...
Colorado Officials Take the Slow, Natural Approach (6/4/2012)
On June 1, 2012 a mountain lion that wandered too close to town was given a second chance, thanks to Colorado Division of Wildlife's humane and scientific approach to wildlife conflict management.
Residents of the small, rural community of Morrison — home of the Red Rocks Amphitheater, and whose motto is "The Nearest Faraway Place" — awoke to the news that a mountain lion had wandered into town and was calmly sitting up in a tree.
Neighbors first spotted the mountain lion Friday morning around 8:30 a.m. lounging in a tall cottonwood tree and notified the Colorado Division of Wildlife's (CDOW) local Parks and Wildlife office. Lions are most active at night and will find a safe place to bed down during the day. Some experts also believe this lion may have been spooked by another animal, and sought refuge in the tree near Red Rocks Country Club. But unfortunately, this resting place was a bit too close to town and he soon caught the attention of residents and local photographers.
"It's the first time I've seen one but I've heard that they've been seen in the neighborhood before," said Morrison resident Allan Udin. "We're intruding on their habitat so I guess it's more our problem, I suppose. I don't think it concerns me that much."
As hours passed and the crowd grew, the lion became agitated. Wildlife expert Jennifer Churchill commented, "We think that this cat would really like to go," adding though that "It's a good sign that he's staying up there, it shows this cat is afraid of people."
The cat stayed put even as three oblivious deer strolled under the tree and began grazing. The amount of fear and nervousness he felt to resist the easy meal because of the presence of people further showed this cat was no threat to public safety.
When asked why they did not tranquilize and move the lion, CDOW personnel commented that this cat hadn't done anything wrong. Their current policy only gives lions one free pass (which is still more than almost every other state!). The first time a mountain lion comes too close to people and has to be relocated, the cat is marked with an ear tag. If an ear tagged lion approaches developed areas, it's killed.
So by not putting their hands on this cat, CDOW preserved the lion's free pass and allowed him to continue on his way, naturally. And that's exactly what he did. The people were cleared out and as the sun went down the lion took off back into the foothills.
Everyone, including the lion, went home at the end of the day. This peaceful outcome unfortunately is very rare for lions that get spotted moving along the outskirts of our cities. In just the past few weeks, under the pretext of public safety, two lions were killed in California (one in Sunland and another in Santa Monica), a caged juvenile lion was killed in Utah, and Washington officers shot a cougar out of a tree.
To help promote humane policies like Colorado's two-strike rule and letting non-threatening animals return to their habitats on their own, please contact your state's wildlife agency. Tell them it's time to update their mountain lion public safety policies and ensure proper training for field officers.
Then, please take a moment to thank the Colorado Division of Wildlife for their professionalism and humane approach to lion encounters. Encourage them to also protect mountain lions in their natural habitats by reducing the number of lions allowed to be killed annually by sport hunters.
Click here for CDOW contact information. If you use the form, select topic "Co-existing with wildlife."
(Article #1373) To read the actual news story click here...
Presentation: Coexisting with Carnivores in Washington (5/31/2012)
On Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 the Sammamish Library will be hosting a special presentation: From Backyards to Mountain Tops: Coexisting with Carnivores in Washington
Dr. Brian N. Kertson, Carnivore Research Scientist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will provide insights on the ecology and behavior of native carnivores including cougars, bobcats, black bears, wolves and coyotes. Get tips for avoiding conflicts with these species where you live, work and recreate.
All ages welcome!
Wednesday, June 6th at 6:00 pm
825 228th Ave SE,
Sammamish WA 98075
Click here to view the event flier.
Dr. Brian Kertson has twelve years of experience conducting field-based research on carnivores in the Pacific Northwest with a particular emphasis on cougar ecology, behavior and management.
WDFW Officer Chris Moszeter and his superstar partner Karelian bear dog Savute may also make a special appearance at the event.
And be sure to say hello to MLF's Washington Field Representative Bob McCoy, too! A special thanks to Bob for all his hard work organizing this event and for his tireless efforts helping promote coexistence with cougars in Washington.
To learn more about how to become an activist in your area, check out MLF's Guide to Becoming a Lion Activist and also see the list of our current Action Alerts.
(Article #1372) To read the actual news story click here...
Another South Dakota Lion Spotted in Michigan? (5/30/2012)
On May 18, 2012 the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) confirmed the sighting of a mountain lion near the small community of Skanee in the Michigan Upper Peninsula.
The actual sighting took place on May 5, 2012 when Baraga County resident Fred Nault spotted the animal crossing a road and took a photograph.
MDNR Wildlife Biologist Adam Bump, who is a member of the Department's specially trained cougar team, noted that a small number of mountain lions are moving back into the state. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we know cougars have established populations in the Dakotas, so we're starting to see a lot of dispersal and for whatever reason they're heading east."
Mountain lions are native to Michigan, but disappeared from the state when the last confirmed lion was killed near the town of Newberry in 1906.
Since 2008, the MDNR has verified eight separate sets of cougar tracks and seven separate photographs in the Upper Peninsula, but none in the lower Peninsula.
And according to Bump, "This is the first confirmation in 2012, and the first verified photo of a cougar taken in person and not by a remote camera.
So far, there is no record of a female lion in Michigan. All lions that have wandered into the state have been young, dispersing males. Many biologists point out a male is not likely to establish a territory if no females are present, and therefore these males will probably keep moving.
While these confirmed sightings prove lions (males at least) are capable of traveling hundreds and even thousands of miles to reach their historic ranges, true recovery will ultimately depend on the protection laws our society puts in place for the species.
(Article #1371) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain Lions CAN be Safely Captured and Released! (5/29/2012)
A Washington mountain lion was captured, unharmed, and released back to the wild the following day.
On Wednesday, May 23, 2012, a two-year-old female cougar wandered close to homes in Washington State. Following a call from a property owner, she was captured by Washington wildlife agents.
Washington law requires that when there is evidence a mountain lion has preyed on domestic animals (depredation) that it must be destroyed, but fortunately for this lion, no such evidence was found. Laws in other states allow for relocation to occur even when depredation has occurred, if the homeowner is unwilling to file a complaint.
On Thursday, the team drove the cougar to a wooded area far from human occupation. Confronted with unfamiliar territory, the cougar was reluctant to leave the cylindrical cage trap that had been used to transport her.
It took more than 30 minutes to frighten the mountain lion sufficiently to leave the cage. Agents pounded on the sides of the metal cage, nudged her with a pole, attempted to lift the cage and slide her out, and finally used pepper spray to drive her out of the enclosure.
Once released, the fish and wildlife officers shot beanbags at the fleeing lion, and set off the sound of exploding firecrackers. The goal was to make the young mountain lion have a healthy fear of humans.
"They don't teach you about this in warden school." said Sgt. Richard Phillips.
Well... they certainly should!
It's pressure from the public, and from members of organizations like the Mountain Lion Foundation, that encourages state agencies to relocate lions rather than shoot them on sight.
See Idaho Tells Familiar Tale to Justify Lion Killed by Boise Police for the tragic and all-too-common shooting of mountain lions that is taking place in other states.
Cages, agents, dogs — captures and releases — are far more costly to the state than a single bullet. And risky too, not only from a safety standpoint, but also for fear of the liability and negative public opinion that may result if the cougar should re-enter a suburb or city.
But it can be even more costly for a wildlife agency to be known to the public as a killing machine rather than as an agency that is concerned about wildlife, ecosystems, and conservation.
So take ten minutes and write a letter to YOUR state wildlife agency, and ask them to fearlessly protect your mountain lions, despite the cost and despite the risk: because the value of our wildlife far exceeds the cost of conservation.
Check back next week for a special feature story from MLF's Washington Field Rep Bob McCoy about how WDFW's innovative and humane wildlife release program began.
(Article #1369) To read the actual news story click here...
Small Successes: When We Need Real Change! (5/25/2012)
On May 23, 2012 members of the California Department of Fish and Game Commission discussed changing the manner in which they elect a Commission President.
Many Mountain Lion Foundation members and supporters hoped to see the lion-killing Dan Richards removed from office. Short of that, we hoped that he would step down from the Presidency, and a new leader elected at this meeting.
Unfortunately, the Commission voted only to change the election process from succession (longest serving member automatically gets the presidency) to a true election where the commission members can vote in a president. The only commissioner to vote against the new process was Richards himself.
Technically the Commission may now elect a new president, but the odds appear to be in favor of letting Richards serve out his term through January, and then to elect his successor at that time.
Video excerpt of commission hearing reposted with permission from AGP Video, Inc. Click here to watch the entire Commission meeting on the CAL-SPAN.org website.
(Article #1366) To read the actual news story click here...
Missouri Buries Lion-Killing Bill (5/24/2012)
On Friday, May 18, 2012 mountain lion advocates cheered as Missouri Senate Bill 738 officially died in committee. Mountain lions can now rest a little easier in the show me state. SB 738 would have declared open season on lions, allowing anyone to kill a lion at any time, for any reason, and in effect encouraged the extermination of this rare animal.
Click here to view the original Action Alert.
Missouri does not have a breeding population of lions and only a handful of the majestic cats have wandered in from western states. The current law allows anyone who feels threatened to legally kill a lion to protect people or property. And although lions have been shot in recent years by hunters without prosecution, SB 738 would have made things much, much worse.
Mountain lions still need stronger legal protection in Missouri, but with the threat of SB 738 gone and attitudes shifting, many local residents are hoping to see the species' numbers continue to grow. Having lions on the landscape would greatly improve the native ecosystem.
Congratulations to everyone who signed the petition and worked to stop SB 738. This victory is the first step towards ensuring protection for Missouri's recolonizing lions, and hopefully, will eventually pave the way for lions into the Midwest and eastern United States.
(Article #1363) To read the actual news story click here...
Wildlife Services Article Series Complete (5/23/2012)
"With the Santa Monica Mountains nearby, we see all kinds of critters," said Lt. Calisse Lindsey Santa, of the Santa Monica Police Department.
According to the National Park Service website: "Genetic analyses indicate that the Santa Monica Mountains mountain lions have low genetic diversity relative to mountain lions in the rest of the state. The long-term survival of a mountain lion population here depends on their ability to move between regions to maintain genetic diversity and overall population health."
(Article #1360) To read
the actual news story click here...
Lions in California's Central Valley: The Sign of a Healthy Environment? (5/17/2012)
A mountain lion sighting near Fresno, California was confirmed via tracks by the California's Department of Fish and Game on May 10, 2012. Although there are a few homes bordering this semi-rural area near Woodward Park, it is largely agricultural land, park land, and natural riverine habitat.
The San Joaquin River Conservancy is working in the same general area to purchase a 22 mile regional greenspace and wildlife corridor along both sides of the river from Friant Dam to Highway 99. If their work is successful, we should expect to see more lions along the river in the near future.
The San Joaquin River forms a natural corridor for mountain lions from the foothills of the Sierra across the valley to the California's Coast Range. This is true of other valley river systems as well: the American, Cosumnes, Tuolumne, and Sacramento, just to name a few.
Before European settlement, valley grasslands would have been prime hunting ground for mountain lions. Deer foraged there, as well as Tule Elk and many smaller prey species. Now the great central valley grasslands have largely given way to agriculture and suburban development, and are trisected by North-South freeways 99 and Interstate 5, and cougar sightings are few.
Of the big cat's presence along the river, Lt. Tony Spada of the California Department of Fish and Game said that "To find these pawprints just signifies that we have a healthy ecosystem."
(Article #1359) To read the actual news story click here...
WGFD Exploits Ungrounded Fears to Satisfy Lion Hunters (5/16/2012)
A recently published news story reported that last February, around a hundred people attended a meeting in Hulett, Wyoming and told WGFD officials they were worried about a growing mountain lion population and feared for their safety and that of their livestock and pets. Concern was also voiced that lions were reducing the area's deer populations.
According to rancher and state Senator Ogden Driskell (R-Devils Tower), "They wanted the lion population decreased."
WGFD responded to the group's request with a proposal to create a new unlimited mountain lion hunt area in the Black Hills as well as increasing the lion hunting quotas in the adjoining areas.
While on the surface it appeared that WGFD was being responsive to public safety concerns, the story failed to report an earlier published statement by Joe Sandrini, a WGFD Wildlife Biologist, that landowners attending the February meeting were more concerned about making money than they were about safety.
"Based on that meeting we had in Hulett, most attendees were landowners who were pretty adamant about being able to hunt lions on their property and not have the season close because of guys hunting on public land," Sandrini said. This revelation isn't too surprising since guided lion hunts are usually worth thousands of dollars.
WGFD proudly states that it makes mountain lion management decisions based more on public perception than on peer-reviewed, scientifically defensible facts.
This laissez-faire style of wildlife management tends to favor special interests such as sportsmen's organizations, ranchers who profit from allowing hunting on their private lands, and the livestock industry. Further it ignores the principles of the public trust doctrine, affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which asserts that all wildlife, including mountain lions, belongs to all Americans. (To find out more, read Who Owns the Wildlife).
Apparently Senator Driskell agrees with WGFD's biased choice. "I really, really applaud the Game and Fish," he said. "They went out of their way to listen to both the landowners and sportsmen, and made a nice job to make an effort to do what everyone wants done and still preserve the lion population."
The last part of the senator's statement might be a little hard for WGFD to achieve since the region's lion population estimates are questionable, and because both South Dakota and Nebraska are gearing up to kill more lions in those portions of the Black Hills they control.
Go to MLF's Dollars for Ranchers, Death to Lions Action Alert if you are a Wyoming resident and are interested in making your opinion known to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. The deadline for written comments is June 12, 2012.
(Article #1358) To read the actual news story click here...
Wyoming Game & Fish Promises to Relocate Cody Lion (5/15/2012)
A wandering mountain lion near the town of Cody, Wyoming has generated an unexpected response on the part of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD).
Early last week reports started coming in about a mountain lion seen in the river corridor below West Park Hospital in the small community located east of Yellowstone National Park. Though state wildlife officials didn't find any physical evidence of the animal they accepted the accounts as being credible and cautioned the public to stay alert.
While discussing the situation, WGFD predator specialist Mark Bruscino stated that "if it's just passing through, we'll let it pass through." If not, then they will attempt to trap and relocate the animal.
This promise of agency restraint appears to be a new direction for the Department and hopefully signals a change in attitude towards this apex predator.
In the meantime, the warning signs are up, and WGFD is recommending against hiking alone in the area.
For more tips on staying safe in lion county, check out Protecting People, Pets, and Livestock.
(Article #1357) To read the actual news story click here...
Utah Man's Stunt Costs Mountain Lion its Life (5/14/2012)
The smell of an easy pheasant meal attracted a young, wandering cougar from the Uinta National Forest into the outskirts of the town of Provo, Utah. Three days later the cat was killed and many are questioning the state's mountain lion policies.
It all started when a local resident heard commotion outside his friend's pheasant coop. Thinking the noise was a raccoon, he went out to scare away the unwanted critter.
Approaching the coop, the man caught a glimpse of a long tail disappearing into the trees. That's when he realized it was a lion. Apparently working on some videos for his new website, the man thought that catching the cat would be a great publicity stunt.
Over the next three nights he baited a large trap with meat scraps hoping to catch the young lion. The first two nights the bait disappeared. On his third attempt the man successfully captured the lion. He and neighbors took both photos and video footage of the trapped animal. When the novelty wore off they called the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to figure out what to do with the terrified young lion.
The responding officer reported the cat was a juvenile "yearling" cougar who was tempted into town by the easy meal. Still learning how to hunt larger, natural prey, the dog-sized lion was therefore deemed to be a public safety threat and killed. There is a "no tolerance" mountain lion policy in the town. By trapping the cat and calling authorities, the local man sealed the lion's fate.
Had he not baited the cat into the neighborhood, it likely would not have returned after the first night checking out the pheasant coop. Other residents reported seeing a larger cat in the area which may have been this little one's mother. Within days the two likely would have moved back into their territory away from town without causing any problems. Unfortunately, due to the selfish actions of a man hoping to benefit by trapping a wild mountain lion, another American lion has been needlessly killed.
Was it worth it?
What are your thoughts? Should this man face charges for baiting a wild animal into town? Should Utah Division of Wildlife Resources consider a more tolerant lion policy?
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(Article #1356) To read the actual news story click here...
WDFW Officer Claims No Other Option (5/4/2012)
Early Wednesday morning (5/2/2012), a young dispersing cougar wandered into a southeast Washington residential neighborhood where it was subsequently shot and killed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers nine hours later.
The first of several sightings by Kinnewick residents of a young cat ambling though town was called in to local police at around 1:00 a.m. Eight hours later the cougar was reported treed in a residential backyard by two pet dogs and wildlife officers arrived on the scene.
The homeowner, Casey Leach, had no idea there was a cougar in her backyard and she was already up and out of the house when officers arrived. She was at the local gym when she received word WDFW was trying to get a hold of her. She returned home and after calling her dogs into the house, an officer shot and killed the cougar.
Although WDFW has six Karelian bear dog K9 officers and handlers stationed throughout the state to resolve this kind of wildlife encounter non-lethally, in this case, apparently it was not an option. On-site WDFW officer Sgt Mike Jewell said shooting the cat was not an easy decision to make, and he had called his supervisor and a wildlife biologist for advice.
After the incident, Jewell issued a statement saying, "Our options were extremely limited and as a result of the risk to public safety, we had no option but to remove the animal."
Many residents are upset with the outcome and believe the department should have tried the non-lethal option of tranquilizing and relocating the cat.
To help MLF increase its advocacy for Washington's cougars, please consider making a donation. To help expand WDFW's Karelian Bear Program, you can send a donation to:
WDFW - KBD Fund
Attn: Capt. Bill Hebner
16018 Mill Creek Blvd.
Mill Creek, WA 98012
(Article #1354) To read the actual news story click here...
Lawsuit Filed Against Wildlife Contract Killers (5/2/2012)
For eighty years, the United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program has been slaughtering our Nation's wildlife to enrich greedy ranchers. Wildlife Services uses poisons, guns, traps, and often other methods illegal for use by the average citizen to kill millions of nuisance critters (and often accidentally pets and protected species). They operate above the law, work in the shadows, and spend over $125 million dollars annually — primarily tax dollars.
But it looks like things are about to change!
On Monday (4/30/2012), WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit against Wildlife Services asking a federal judge to shut down the agency that is "outdated, illegal and a waste of federal money."
For nearly twenty years the agency has failed to conduct the required environmental impact reviews to justify their actions or keep accurate records of all the animals destroyed. Both the widespread killing of predatory species and the methods used are not based on science, nor is the public given proper notice and comment periods.
Project Coyote's Executive Director, Camilla Fox is also vehemently opposed to Wildlife Services, adding "If people knew how many animals are being killed at taxpayer expense — often on public lands — they would be shocked and horrified."
Just over a year ago, Wildlife Services was caught killing California's protected mountain lions at random, with illegal traps and poisons, and leaving the resulting orphaned kittens to starve to death (read: Federal Cougar Hunters Break State Law). The California Department of Fish and Game contracts more than $200,000 of slaughter each year to Wildlife Services and claimed they didn't realize the agency should have been told to follow state laws.
This lawsuit may finally hold the USDA and Wildlife Services accountable, or better yet, terminate the disgusting program altogether and give our ecosystems a chance at recovery and natural balance.
For updates, join MLF on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for our e-news.
Want more on this issue now? Check out:
Grim Anniversary: 80 Years of the ADC Act
Federal Cougar Hunters Break State Law
The killing agency: Wildlife Services' brutal methods leave a trail of animal death SacBee series part 1 of 3
Wildlife Services' deadly force opens Pandora's box of environmental problems SacBee series part 2 of 3
Suggestions in changing Wildlife Services range from new practices to outright bans SacBee series part 3 of 3
(Article #1353) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain Lion Killed by CDFG in Sunland, California (4/25/2012)
On Friday, a young mountain lion wandered into a Sunland (Los Angeles County, California) neighborhood. Despite not causing any trouble nor posing a threat to the local police officers who surrounded the cat on a bushy slope, according to reports, a responding California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) warden decided to immediately shoot the cat upon his arrival at the scene.
The lion was first spotted by local resident Marlene Hitt who says while closing her garage door Friday afternoon she "heard a bang and looked down and saw a mountain lion run out as fast as it could."
She called the police. The lion was found hiding in the nearby bushes when they showed up. Ms. Hitt says she heard five shots as the officers were attempting to scare the lion away. After hunkering down in the bushes, the police officers felt they had the cat contained and waited for wardens from CDFG to arrive.
Just weeks before, CDFG had tranquilized and relocated a 400-pound bear just a few miles away from this Sunland neighborhood. But to the surprise of many, a responding warden on this call granted no such second chance to this particular lost critter. Instead, apparently he immediately shot the 80-pound cat in the head and killed it.
CDFG officials reported the shooting of this cat was justified to protect the neighborhood, adding they could not take the risk of how the lion might potentially react to being hit with a tranquilizer dart.
According to warden Andrew Hughman, "You hit the animal, the animal becomes very agitated, very angry very quickly, and it doesn't just fall down and go to sleep, the drugs can take several minutes to activate."
Many residents were outraged and refused to accept this excuse. Some cite fish and game departments in states like Colorado and Washington who frequently and successfully relocate or haze lions away from town. There are humane alternatives. If states that allow the cats to be killed for sport are implementing non-lethal techniques, shouldn't California — the only state where lions are classified as a specially protected mammal — be just as humane?
Another contributing factor may be CDFG's public safety wildlife guidelines. This internal department policy labels all lions that wander into residential areas as imminent threats, and all animals that pose an imminent threat must be killed. Hence there is no stated wiggle room to try non-lethal measures like relocation or hazing; and once a lion has been declared a safety threat, there is no down grading this status (such as was seen in the Susanville case where even lions captured in cages were still destroyed).
The Mountain Lion Foundation is currently investigating the events surrounding the Sunland lion incident, as well as avenues for reforming CDFG's lion policies. Join us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest breaking news, or sign up to receive our electronic newsletter. (Article #1352) To read the actual news story click here...
UPDATE: California DFG Commissioner Richards (3/14/2012)
During the past few weeks, thousands of Californians and wildlife enthusiasts from around the country have told the state legislature to fire California Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards. In January, Richards traveled to Idaho where it's legal to trophy hunt mountain lions, had a guide tree a cat for him to shoot, then shared photos online and bragged about his thrilling experience killing a lion (read more).
This blatant disrespect for the people and environmental priorities of California proved once and for all this man has no business leading the state's wildlife agency. More, it shed light on a serious problem with the structure of the Commission.
What's Happened Since?
At the March 7th Commission meeting in Riverside, 4 of the 5 commissioners agreed Richards should not be their president... Richards was the only one who disagreed, go figure! Current policy says the presidency is given to the commissioner who has served on the board the longest. Richards stunt proved time-served does not equate to knowledge or identify the best person for the job, and this "presidency by default" setup is not working out as planned.
To rectify this problem, the Commissioners approved a new ongoing policy that will allow them to vote in their president and it will take effect at the next meeting (May 23rd in Monterey). Though this will not remove Richards from the commission entirely as many had hoped, his authority over wildlife management (and hopefully some of his ego) will be greatly reduced. This change to the presidency structure is a wonderful improvement and it will continue to help California's wildlife long after Richards disappears.
What About Getting Richards Fired?
The power to remove Richards from the Commission resides at the state capitol with the Assemblymembers and State Senators. It would take a majority vote from both entities to oust him. Assemblymember Ben Hueso was leading the push, but it soon became clear the time and effort would be better spent, not on this one individual, but authoring a legislative bill that would clean up the entire Commission and prevent unqualified folks from ever being appointed in the first place.
In his letter notifying Governor Brown of the upcoming legislation, Assemblymember Hueso notes the bill "will improve the standards and practices of the California Fish and Game Commission" including "a strengthened conflict of interest code" and urges the Governor to appoint only those "who will truly respect the principles of our great state's wildlife laws."
The Commission is a powerful entity. Appointing those who respect current laws and want to further California's environmental protections is a much-needed and welcomed change!
In a Nutshell...
While many may be disappointed not to see Richards booted from the Commission, these resulting policy changes will help protect California's wildlife and natural resources for many, many generations to come. This is more than we foresaw when that disgraceful photo hit the internet; but thanks to Richards' stunt, he will likely be the last California Commissioner with an itch to shoot a mountain lion.
MLF members and wildlife activists like you have been instrumental the past few weeks in sparking these Commission changes. Every single day our office receives phone calls, electronic comments, and is cc'd on letters to legislators demanding California's wildlife officials be held to a higher standard, and - in the words of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg - this "jackass" Richards be the last of his kind on the Commission. None of this would have happened without your support and outrage, so please keep it up! Let us know your thoughts and comments, and keep MLF in the loop on your local mountain lion issues. We love working with you to protect the American lion.
(Article #1350) To read the actual news story click here...
Black Hills Hunters Hit Lion Quota (3/1/2012)
The mountain lion hunting season closed today in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The hunt quota was met, meaning the maximum number of lions allowed to be killed this season (70) has been reached. The 70th lion was actually shot yesterday, but due to reporting delays, one more lion was killed today before officials could get the word out. The season began on January 1st.
Though the Black Hills is now closed for lion hunting, the rest of the state remains open. Landowners with unused tags may still hunt lions on privately owned or leased properties until the end of the year.
South Dakota has a fairly small population of mountain lions, with less than 250 in the entire state. Allowing them to be hunted for sport is highly controversial and not backed by scientific review. To make matters worse, the game commission continues to increase the quota every year, allowing more and more lions to be shot, simply to please a handful of rural residents.
Of the 71 lions killed for sport so far this year, 30 percent were two years old or younger, with six of those being spotted kittens only a few months old. (See the season results.)
South Dakota's mountain lion management plan states hunters may not shoot kittens or sub-adult lions still with their mother. However, it does not appear they have prosecuted or punished in any way the hunters who have violated this regulation. If they won't listen to the scientific experts or the general public and end the trophy hunting of lions in South Dakota, you'd think they could at least enforce the few rules they have put in place to regulate this "sport."
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(Article #1349) To read the actual news story click here...