Articles, opinions, and editorials about mountain lions and the Mountain Lion Foundation.
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Wildlife activists unable to sway New Mexico Game Commission (6/15/2015)
In a special Saturday session, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMGF) presented the State Game Commission with its preliminary proposal for changes to the rules and quotas for hunting bears and cougars in New Mexico.
Speaking before a crowd of almost 100 people, representatives from the Department used their old trick of increasing the amount of recognized habitat to claim that there were more bears than previously thought (NMGF used a similar tactic back in 2010 to increase the state's cougar population estimate). They also admitted that even though the results of several studies were not yet known, they believed that the findings would justify increasing the bear density level from 17 animals per 38.6 square miles to 21. A density level the Department felt justifies a 20 percent increase in the number of bears hunted and killed annually.
The bear advocates who spoke opposed increasing the hunting limits, noting that the 28 percent drop in the number of bears killed by hunters last year - even though there was no drop in licenses - was a red flag for a declining population, not the expansion the Department claimed.
The department's cougar hunting proposals include increasing bag limits and allowing private landowners to trap cougars without first getting a permit during the months of November through March.
Part of the Department's justification for the cougar rule changes was the fact that hunters were not reaching the annual mortality quota of 749 lions that the NMGF has set. Therefore other methods than "fair chase" hunting were deemed necessary to kill more lions.
The 14-year annual average of all known cougar moralities in New Mexico is 224.
Many of the wildlife advocates that attended the hearing voiced their doubts that Commission would be swayed by their comments and claimed that the department and the commission just want to kill more predators, and that the decision to kill more bears and cougars was based on politics not science.
NMGF will finalize their bear and cougar rule change proposal sometime in July. The New Mexico State Game Commission will vote on the finalized proposal at their August 27th meeting.
(Article #1629) To read the actual news story click here...
Arkansas officials confirm lion shot last November walked 1,200 miles to be killed (6/11/2015)
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission announced yesterday that the mountain lion killed by a deer hunter in Bradley County last November originated in the Black Hills region of South Dakota; almost 1,200 miles away.
Wildlife Genetics Laboratory (WGL) in Missoula, Montana conducted the DNA test. Using a database which includes mountain lion samples from populations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon and Florida, WGL concluded that the mountain lion most likely originated in the Black Hills breeding population of Wyoming and South Dakota.
They also believe that this was the same lion spotted just six weeks before in Marion County (180 miles away).
At one time, mountain lions lived throughout Arkansas until they were extirpated by humans in 1920. Since then, the presence of mountain lions in Arkansas has been rare with only the record of the killing of one in Montgomery County in 1949, followed by a second in Ashley County twenty years later (1969), and a third in Logan County in 1975.
The Bradley County lion became the first mountain lion to be killed in Arkansas in 40-years.
Not including the recently killed lion, there have only been 7 confirmed sightings of mountain lions in Arkansas over the past five years.
A confirmed breeding population has yet to be discovered.
(Article #1628) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain lion sightings no cause for alarm (6/4/2015)
The following story was written by Ann Powers and originally posted on the Plumas County News website.
A growing concern over a perceived increase in recent mountain lion sightings and attacks on pets in residential neighborhoods is being reported to Portola city officials and the Sheriff's Office and posted on community Facebook pages.
However, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials maintain there is no significant cause for alarm and these sightings are nothing out of the ordinary. The weather, deer relocating, people feeding wildlife and more accessible reporting through modern technology are all contributing factors.
"It's exactly what I'm seeing across the state every year," said CDFW Capt. Patrick Foy. "In the springtime the weather is good. That means more people and their pets are out in their yards and (witnessing) the mountain lions that have always been there."
Officials added that deer populations are moving to higher-elevation areas, like Portola and Quincy, from their winter habitats, which is routine. Generally, mountain lions can be found wherever deer are present - because that's their main food source.
"It's like clockwork," said CDFW Public Information Officer Janice Mackey. "Where the deer move to, the lions follow. It's part of their pattern."
Mackey also noted that social media sites, such as Facebook, have made it easier for individuals to post and report sightings, and folks often misidentify bobcats and even golden retrievers as mountain lions.
Another reason falls to the fault of residents feeding wild animals. If a deer is snacking on food that's been left out by someone, a mountain lion is probably lurking nearby.
"A lot of people feed deer in urban areas so they feel safe in neighborhoods and on golf courses," said Mike Smith, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services federal agent. "It's a misdemeanor. Feeding any wildlife is and Fish and (Wildlife) will cite people who do."
Killing mountain lions without demonstrating a reasonable threat is against the law as well. Even though reports show mountain lions are not threatened or endangered, they are legally classified as a specially protected species under state law.
Authorities note that many people question that status, especially when it comes to protecting their pets, livestock and children. There are extenuating circumstances.
Mountain lions may be killed if one of the following conditions is met:
* A depredation permit is issued to take a specific lion killing livestock or pets.
* To preserve public safety.
* To protect listed bighorn sheep.
Wildlife officials follow up with an investigation in those cases to verify the loss. Factors considered include the lion's behavior and its proximity to schools, playgrounds and other public gathering places.
"If it's shot in the forehead on your back porch that tells us it was a threat," explained Foy. "If it has a bullet hole in its butt and it's not on your property, how much of a threat really was it? It's not so simple."
The CDFW receives hundreds of reported mountain lion sightings annually, but officials say fewer than 3 percent turn out to be verified public safety threats.
In 2004, there were 14 mountain lions killed in the interest of public safety. A person is 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion, according to experts.
Mountain Lion Foundation Associate Director Lynn Cullens doesn't find those numbers convincing when taking the cat's life. She estimated each one of those killings cost taxpayers approximately $2,500 between staff time for wildlife wardens, professional trappers, transporting the lion's carcass, performing a necropsy (animal autopsy) and necessary reports.
"And that's being conservative," she said. "It may feel good to kill the predator, but it doesn't solve the problem. It's up to us to be responsible people and find ways of coexisting without mountain lions being killed."
Cullens offered an example of a rancher whose goat was taken out by a mountain lion. He contacted the state, they killed the lion and he got another goat. The next year, the same thing happened all over again.
"This went on for seven years," she said. "Seven goats, seven mountain lions, seven years."
Mackey agrees with Cullens for a need to coexist. She offers community presentations about living responsibly with mountain lions, bears and other animals. To schedule an event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than half of California is mountain lion habitat. Here are some important things to remember from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for living in mountain lion country safely:
* Don't feed deer; it is illegal in California and it will attract mountain lions.
* Deer-proof your landscaping by avoiding plants that deer like to eat.
* Trim brush to reduce hiding places for mountain lions.
* Don't leave small children or pets outside unattended.
* Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
* Provide sturdy, covered shelters for sheep, goats and other vulnerable animals.
* Don't allow pets outside when mountain lions are most active: at dawn, dusk and night.
* Avoid hiking or jogging (especially alone) when mountain lions are most active.
* Bring pet food inside to avoid attracting raccoons, opossums and other potential mountain lion prey.
* Do not approach a mountain lion.
* If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.
* If attacked, fight back.
* If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.
(Article #1627) To read the actual news story click here...
Male mountain lion found in SoCal's Verdugo Mountains (6/1/2015)
The following story was originally posted on the 89.3 KPCC website
Researchers reported Friday they had caught and tagged an adult male mountain lion living in the Verdugo Mountains north of Glendale.
Known as P-41 - short for "Puma 41" - the 130-pound male was captured on May 7, marking the first time a mountain lion has been studied in the isolated mountain range since biologists with the National Park Service began researching the local puma population in 2002.
Based on his body size and evidence of wear on his teeth, P-41 is estimated to be 8 years old. Biologists outfitted him with a GPS collar and took blood and tissue samples before releasing him back into the Verdugos.
Researchers think he either came from the Santa Monica Mountains or the San Gabriel Mountains, which rise just north of the Verdugos on the other side of the 210 Freeway.
Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the National Park Service, said monitoring P-41 could help resolve the question of how he reached the Verdugos, a relatively small island of open space hemmed in on all sides by urban sprawl and hillside neighborhoods.
"We hope to learn more about landscape connectivity and movement corridors in the region," Riley said. "There's really no way to fully understand and conserve mountain lions ... without understanding their movements across the larger landscape."
Genetic information from P-41 could also help pinpoint his provenance since scientists believe there is significant genetic differentiation between mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and those in the San Gabriels.
P-41 marks the 11th puma to be collared and tracked by park service researcher. The map below shows the location where the big cats were initially captured.
It's unclear whether P-41 will stay in the Verdugos. The mountains' 19 square miles of open space are a relatively small home range for an adult male mountain lion, which typically roams an area roughly 13 times larger.
That said, Griffith Park's P-22 has been living in just 8 square miles, which is believed to be the smallest home range of any adult male mountain lion ever recorded.
Though both P-22 and P-41 are living near populated areas, researchers are quick to point out that mountain lions are usually solitary animals and hardly ever seen.
(Article #1626) To read the actual news story click here...
New Mexico's intolerance of mountain lions continues (5/28/2015)
A little over a month after a bill to allow the trapping of mountain lions failed in the state legislature, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMGF) announced yesterday that it was going to place leg-hold snares in several canyons near the community of Los Alamos to capture a lion they claim killed two dogs.
A spokesperson for NMGF, justified the Department's actions with the old excuse that any lion that preys on pets is also a danger to humans.
The department's only acknowledgement that the behavior of pet owners might be the true cause for the pets dying came when department spokesman Dan Williams reminded the public not to feed wildlife, especially deer. "Cougars will follow deer into town," Williams said. "Sometimes they find out that little dogs put out at night are easy meals."
(Article #1625) To read the actual news story click here...
Parts of upper Great Lakes could suit cougars (5/27/2015)
The following story was written by Logan Clark and originally posted on the Great Lakes Echo website.
Don't call it a comeback. Call it a potential comeback.
Habitat is suitable for cougars to recolonize the Upper Great Lakes region, according to a study out of Michigan Technological University.
The study, published last November in the Public Library of Science, says that cougars were driven out of the Midwest by the early 20th century. Since then, they have persisted only in the West.
But the western population has been increasing, causing the cats to expand to the east, the study reports.
This population increase is likely due to more prey availability and the banning of predator bounties and poisoning in the 1960s and 1970s, said one of the study's authors, Shawn O'Neil, a doctoral student at Michigan Technological University who studies wildlife spatial ecology.
"For the most part, as a society, we've moved from trying to control and eradicate apex predators to trying to coexist," O'Neil said.
O'Neil also credits the expansion to the animals' instinct to avoid inbreeding. They will disperse long distances in search of suitable habitat and new gene pools, he said. One cougar was even thought to have traveled over 1,000 miles from South Dakota to Connecticut, said the study.
O'Neil and his colleagues demonstrated that suitable cougar habitat exists in the Upper Great Lakes by assessing the region's capacity to support them. That capacity includes food availability and physical characteristics of the landscape. Among those characteristics are elevation, vegetation, distance to water and roads and if they can avoid people.
The study area focused on Michigan and Wisconsin, and extended a model previously developed by researchers at the Cougar Network, a nonprofit organization that studies the species. After comparing results with sightings confirmed by both states' Department of Natural Resources, O'Neil and his colleagues estimated that more than 500 cougars could be supported in the study area.
That may sound good for cougars, but if recolonization does happen it will undoubtedly bring political and cultural problems similar to that of the wolf, said Adrian Wydeven, a retired wildlife specialist from the Wisconsin DNR.
Wydeven has long studied cougars and other large carnivores. He was involved with investigating the Connecticut cougar that reportedly traveled so far.
He expects fairly negative attitudes from farmers and hunters. Cougars seem to be more feared by people than wolves or bears, he said.
"It may be that if recolonization occurs slowly it will receive better support, but under current conditions, a rapidly growing cougar population would raise concerns," he said.
Another debate over using hunting to manage carnivores could well be around the corner, O'Neil said.
"Several states have cougars living right next to major population centers, and this hasn't seemed to generate the same divisiveness as wolves have," he said. "So maybe there is greater capacity for social acceptance."
A large portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula is also suitable for cougars, despite the lack of confirmed sightings in this century. But cats will have a hard time reaching the area because it is surrounded by either water or urban farmland, according to Wydeven. Wolves have yet to colonize the area as well, he said. "My guess is that it will be decades and maybe as much as a century or more before breeding populations of cougars establish in the Lower Peninsula."
The Michigan DNR has started confirming cougar sightings only since 2008. Not one of those confirmations was female. As a result, the agency's official stance is that there is no breeding going on in the state, according to Kevin Swanson, the agency's large carnivore specialist.
The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy disagrees. The organization, based in Bath, Mich., specializes in restoring and establishing wildlife habitat. Patrick Rusz, director of the group's wildlife programs, says that breeding pairs of cougars never really left the Great Lakes.
Rusz, who has a doctorate in wildlife ecology, has been tracking Michigan cougars for over a decade. He is critical of how state officials have handled cougar sightings, pointing out that the agency did not confirm any sightings until 2008, but has confirmed 28 sightings since.
Rusz testified before the Michigan Senate in 2009 that he has found plenty of evidence of cougar settlement in both peninsulas. Rusz said he believes that the DNR ignores such evidence because it doesn't want to manage another endangered species.
He said he wants the agency to simply recognize its existence and begin managing for it.
The agency has put together a cougar team to keep up with the increasing sightings. The team is made up of biologists who investigate cougar sightings reported in both of Michigan's peninsulas.
They have yet to find evidence of a breeding population, Swanson said.
Habitat Capacity for Cougar Recolonization in the Upper Great Lakes Region of Michigan
(Article #1624) To read the actual news story click here...
Another wayward lion saved in California: Thanks to Senator Hill (5/19/2015)
Yesterday, in a sign of karmic fate, San Mateo played host to a 15 hour-long game of hide-and-go-seek between the San Mateo Police Department and a young, dispersing mountain lion.
The male lion, weighing approximately 60 to 80 lbs. was first spotted by San Mateo residents around 4:30 a.m. near the corner of Avila Road and South El Camino Real. Responding police officers spotted the animal calmly sauntering down the road, but soon lost sight of it after it ducked in behind a home.
That was the last anyone saw of the lion until almost 9 hours later when a resident on 9th Avenue called police and told them they had just seen a large brown cat walking away from the back of the home where officers had last seen it hours before.
In a repeat of its earlier tactics, the lion once more went to ground and hid from its human searchers. It wasn't until almost 6:30 p.m. that police were finally able to find and corner the elusive cat up in a tree along 9th Avenue.
At that point, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife Officer arrived on scene and successfully shot a tranquilizer dart into the lion's right flank. The startled animal tried to run away but only made it a short distance before the sedative took affect and he fell asleep under some bushes.
The warden then constrained the lion in the back of a truck, and drove it to an undisclosed location where it was released back into the wild after the effects of the drug wore off.
What makes this particular wildlife relocation incident unique is the fact that San Mateo is also the district seat of California State Senator Jerry Hill. In 2013, Senator Hill introduced and passed legislation (SB 132) which requires responding authorities to use non-lethal procedures on non-aggressive mountain lions that have innocently wandered into human space.
San Mateo's elusive lion can now join the ranks of possibly a dozen others that are still alive today because of Senator Hill and the passage of Senate Bill 132 and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's new mountain lion response guidelines.
(Article #1623) To read the actual news story click here...
Florida Legislature diverts money voters want spent on critical habitat (5/14/2015)
The following story was written by David Fleshler and originally posted on the Sun-Sentinel website.
The directive from Florida voters was clear: By a 75 percent majority, they approved a proposal in November to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy and protect unspoiled land.
So what does the state Legislature plan to do with the money? Wages for officials who regulate fish farming, new patrol vehicles for wildlife officers, salaries in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, funds for law enforcement officers to ticket speeding boaters and other routine expenses.
Just a fraction of the anticipated $750 million land-buying fund would go toward the purchase of environmentally sensitive land, such as tropical hammocks in the Keys or ranchlands inhabited by Florida panthers.
Sandhill cranes at Green Swamp, a vast wetlands between Tampa and Orlando, which is one of the priorities for purchase and protection under the Florida Forever program. Some of the land has already been protected.
The Republican-controlled House and Senate propose to channel the largest chunk of the land preservation money - more than $230 million - to routine expenses previously funded through other sources.
The Senate budget includes:
* $34.5 million for officers who enforce hunting, fishing and boating rules
* $10 million for salaries in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
* $2.5 million for road and bridge maintenance by the Florida Forest Service
* $1.3 million to replace patrol vehicles for wildlife officers
* $220,000 for the Agriculture Department to regulate fish farms
Among the items in the House budget:
* $40 million for salaries in the Florida Forest Service
* $38 million for salaries in the Florida Park Service
* $4.9 million for technology and information services in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
* $839,000 for firefighting equipment in Florida Forest Service
* $717,000 for salaries in the Division of Cultural Affairs
Sponsors of the amendment, who waged a long and difficult petition battle to get it on the ballot, say the spending shift defies the will of voters. They cite the ballot's title: "Water and Land Conservation: Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands."
"I don't think the words 'Land Acquisition Trust Fund' could be any more clear," said Will Abberger, chairman of Florida's Water and Land Legacy, the committee that sponsored the amendment. "It's not the 'land management trust fund.' It's not the 'existing agencies operations trust fund.' It's the Land Acquisition Trust Fund."
Legislative leaders defend the money shuffle as legitimate spending for a broad range of conservation purposes. They say there's more to protecting the environment than simply accumulating land.
Michael Williams, spokesman for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said lawmakers have "responsibly funded the requirements of Amendment 1."
"The speaker does not believe we should purchase land just for the sake of purchasing land," he said in an email. "Buying up land we cannot care for that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species is not a legacy he is interested in leaving."
"Instead, we should make sure we can maintain the 5.3 million acres of conservation lands we already own. We believe land should be purchased for strategic reasons, such as wildlife corridors and connecting existing state lands."
The roots of Amendment 1 go back to the recession, when real estate transaction revenue dried up, choking off the source of funds for the state's environmental land-buying program, known as Florida Forever. By the time the economy picked up, new legislators had come into office, and land-buying wasn't a priority for state leaders hungry for more development and jobs.
Environmental groups launched a campaign to persuade voters to amend the Florida Constitution to devote one-third of existing revenue from real estate transaction taxes to the purchase of environmentally significant lands, particularly those on the Florida Forever priority list.
These include isolated pine rocklands in Miami-Dade County, a corridor of panther habitat through which the endangered cats travel from Big Cypress National Preserve to the Caloosahatchee River, the Green Swamp between Tampa and Orlando, the land surrounding natural springs and the shores of the Indian River Lagoon.
It's unclear exactly how much money would go toward land-buying under each spending bill. Each bill includes several broad spending categories that would likely include some money for buying property.
The House budget, for example, includes $116 million for Everglades restoration, springs protection and the conservation of agricultural lands. The Senate budget contains $192 million for similar purposes, as well as money for the establishment of trails for hiking and biking.
But the House budget would devote only $8 million to $10 million to Florida Forever, the state's core land-buying program, depending on how the numbers are interpreted, and the Senate would spend $15 million on it.
The largest single chunk of money, more than $230 million in each spending plan, would go toward routine government expenses.
Backers of the amendment haven't given up. The abrupt termination of the Legislative session, when the House unexpectedly adjourned April 28 without adopting a budget, has given them more time. They plan to lobby legislators in coming weeks, hoping to achieve a significant increase in money spent on land when the Legislature reconvenes June 1.
"There's tremendous room for improvement in the special session," said House Democratic leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. "It was a clear direction that the people of Florida gave to the Legislature to spend these dollars."
Senator Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, said he would press in the special session for $300 million or more of the Amendment 1 money to go toward buying land.
"That's the kind of money I think we should spend to meet the intent of the voters," he said. "I'm optimistic. There's a tremendous amount of public support. The language is very clear that we acquire land."
LAND AT STAKE:
The Florida Forever list calls for buying and protecting land around 119 environmentally significant areas. They include:
* Lake Wales Ridge south of Orlando
* Apalachicola River in Northwest Florida
* Panther Glades southwest of Lake Okeechobee
* Fisheating Creek west of Lake Okeechobee
* Florida Keys tropical hammocks
* Miami-Dade County pine rocklands
* Ichetucknee Trace in North Florida
* Belle Meade in eastern Collier County
* Indian River Lagoon
* Green Swamp east of Tampa
* Lower Suwannee River and Gulf Watershed
(Article #1622) To read the actual news story click here...
Adult Male Mountain Lion Roadkilled in Missouri (5/12/2015)
A car hit and badly injured a mountain lion on Interstate 44 in eastern Laclede County early Tuesday morning.
When State Troopers arrived on the scene around 6:30 a.m. they found the animal badly injured and suffering. A decision was made to kill the lion and put it out of its misery.
Wildlife damage control biologist Jim Braithwaite stated that the dead lion was an adult male weighing approximately 150 pounds.
According to Braithwaite, this was the 54th confirmed mountain lion sighting in Missouri, and the first adult male. The others have all been juvenile males. This was also the first confirmed lion sighting in the region since a trail camera snapped a photograph of one 15 years ago.
A full necropsy along with DNA testing to determine its place of origin will take place at the Missouri Department of Conservation facility in Columbia.
Photo by Missouri Department of Conservation.
For more information, check out the full list of all the Confirmed Mountain Lion Reports in Missouri.
(Article #1620) To read the actual news story click here...
Oregon ranchers supporting bill to create predator control districts (5/6/2015)
Claiming that "this bill is driven by the landowners," State Representative Dallas Heard of Roseburg, has proposed legislation wending its way through the Oregon state legislature that would allow landowners to petition counties to establish special tax districts in which properties would be assessed up to $1 an acre to raise funds for predator control conducted by USDA's Wildlife Services.
Proponents of the bill (HB 3188) claim it's necessary to protect the livestock industry and compensate for reduced federal timber payments to counties.
According to Dan Dawson, a sheep producer in Douglas County, ranchers try to use fences and guard dogs to fend off cougars, coyotes and other predators but these strategies aren't effective in all situations.
"Sometimes we need to target the animals that are causing the problem," he said during a hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Another rancher, David Briggs from Myrtle Creek, told the committee "There are some areas of the ranch where we no longer run sheep" due to predation problems.
Scott Beckstead, state director for Oregon at the Humane Society of the United States, said his group is not categorically opposed to predator control but would like to see such measures incorporate other points of view.
"We believe there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on non-lethal approaches to predator management," he said.
The committee voted unanimously to refer the bill to the House floor with a "do pass" recommendation.
(Article #1618) To read the actual news story click here...
New Mexico ranchers and deer hunters want to trap mountain lions (5/4/2015)
The following story was written by Dan Boyd and originally posted on the Albuquerque Journal website.
A proposal to allow New Mexico hunters to use traps to kill mountain lions has sparked strong opposition from environmental and animal protection groups.
The Game Commission will begin studying the trapping plan - and other proposed changes to cougar and bear hunting rules - at a meeting in Farmington next week. Five public meetings around the state also will be held on the idea over the next month.
But a coalition of environmental groups is already speaking out, with eight organizations signing onto a letter sent Friday that urged game commissioners to reject the cougar trapping plan.
"Allowing traps for cougars, in addition to all the traps that are now allowed to be scattered across public land for other species, would be irresponsible," said Mary Katherine Ray, the wildlife chairwoman for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.
She called trapping a "ruthless" practice, and said traps set for mountain lions could pose a danger to hikers and other types of animals, including dogs.
The Game and Fish Department, which is proposing the new hunting rules for mountain lions and bears, described the trapping proposal on its website as one of several "initial ideas" the agency is considering.
Currently, New Mexico hunters with a special cougar license can use rifles, handguns or bow and arrow to hunt mountain lions year-round. Trapping is not allowed, except on private land with permission from the Game and Fish Department.
In all, the agency allows for about 750 mountain lions to be killed in the state each year, but it says only about 30 percent of that number - roughly 225 animals - are actually shot by hunters.
The cougar population in New Mexico is estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,500. [A number that MLF disputes.]
Under the proposed rule change, traps and snares would be allowable on public land in certain cougar management zones in which the annual hunting limit has not been met, according to the Game and Fish Department.
The cougar management zone located in the state's southwestern Bootheel - along the Mexican border - would be excluded from the rule to prevent federally protected jaguars from accidentally being caught in a trap.
Another proposed change would allow licensed deer and elk hunters to also hunt mountain lions during hunts for the other animals.
Ranchers and farmers from around the state have voiced complaints about mountain lions preying on their livestock and pushed for looser hunting rules.
A bill proposed during this year's 60-day legislative session would have done away with state oversight of mountain lions by removing the Game and Fish Department's management and hunting regulation duties.
Former state Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, a sheep rancher, said at the time that the Game and Fish Department has not done its job, because "the deer are gone and the lions are up."
But that legislation was ultimately derailed after its sponsor, Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, requested it be tabled.
Meanwhile, a separate bill would have banned trapping and poisoning animals on all public lands in New Mexico.
That measure died in a House committee.
In addition to proposed cougar trapping, the Game and Fish Department is also considering allowing more bears to be hunted in certain parts of the state.
The agency currently allows up to 640 bears to be killed per year by licensed hunters.
It's unclear what the new limit might be; an agency spokesman could not provide that figure Friday.
The seven-member Game Commission is expected to decide whether to adopt, tweak or scrap the proposed rules later this year, according to the Game and Fish Department.
Comments can be emailed to Darrel Weybright at: email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
Five public meetings will be held around New Mexico on proposed changes to state mountain lion and bear hunting rules. The locations and dates are as follows. All meetings will begin at 6:00 p.m..
(Article #1617) To read the actual news story click here...
Reward offered for Florida panther found shot to death (4/29/2015)
The following story was written by Eric Staats and posted on the Naples Daily News website.
A search is on for the shooter of an endangered Florida panther found dead on the side of Immokalee Road last month.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Wednesday they are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.
The panther, a 5-year-old male, was reported to wildlife officials as a road kill about 8:30 p.m. March 22 by passing motorists west of Camp Keais Road, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
Conservation Commission officers went to the location, and a follow-up investigation found that the panther had been shot.
Under the federal Endangered Species Act, the maximum penalty for killing a Florida panther is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Florida law makes it a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
In 2012, a Golden Gate Estates man pleaded guilty to killing a panther with a bow and arrow while hunting along Woodland Grade in the Estates in October 2009.
Todd Alan Benfield, then 45, was sentenced to three years of probation and 200 hours of community service at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve or the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, fined $5,000 and paid $5,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Benfield also was required to write public a letter of apology, which was printed in the Naples Daily News. In it, he said he killed the panther because he thought it was interfering with his hunting.
A 3- to 4-year-old uncollared male panther hit and killed by a car on I-75 about a mile east of the tollbooth in Collier County. Photo submitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
(Article #1616) To read the actual news story click here...
Oregon Representative declares 3 wildlife bills dead in committee (4/28/2015)
Declaring that he won't approve any partisan bills, Representative Brad Witt, the Chairman of the Oregon House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources announced the death knell of three wildlife bills last week.
The first two, HB 2050 and HB 3515 were of an anti-wildlife nature.
House Bill 2050 bill would have allowed individual counties to ignore the restrictions in Measure 18 and use hounds to hunt or pursue cougars.
While Witt didn't consider this bill to be partisan, he did announce that it wasn't going to pass. "HB 2050 is going to die", Witt said. "It doesn't have enough votes to pass on the floor."
On the other hand, "House Bill 3515 is one of two bills that present partisan problems. HB 3515 would be a problem for one caucus, and House Bill 2537 would be a problem for the other caucus."
HB 3515 would have prohibited the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission from including the gray wolf on the state Endangered Species List as threatened or endangered.
Both 2050 and 3515 had the support of agriculture and hunters' groups, and opposition from animal-rights organizations.
House Bill 2537 was supported by animal-rights organizations and opposed by hunters. HB 2537 would have raised the penalties for the poaching of black bear or cougar to $15,000, the same as for Oregon's most highly valued game species, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats.
"We try to the greatest extent on this committee to not take partisan votes, to not send bills out on a partisan basis," Witt said. "We were not able to do that in either of these instances. And those bills are going to die today."
(Article #1615) To read the actual news story click here...
Another Santa Monica Lion Crosses the Road (4/24/2015)
The following story was written by David Montero and originally posted on the Pasadena Star-News website.
National Park Service officials reported this morning that a second mountain lion in a month has crossed the 101 Freeway from its habitat in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Since NPS biologists have been tracking mountain lions in the area in 2002, only two of the wild cats had managed to make the passage. This one - known as P-32 - is believed to have traversed the highway near the border of Thousand Oaks and Camarillo on the morning of April 3.
P-32 is the first male mountain lion to make the dash across the freeway. The previous two were females - one known as P-12 made it in 2009, and the other was P-32's sister, P-33.
Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said the crossing marks a chance for the first male to establish new territory and avoid larger cats in the area where he'd wandered previously.
After crossing the Ventura Freeway, the young male - estimated to be 17 months old - is believed to have made his way across State Route 23 near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, then settled in the Simi Hills. His sister, park officials said, returned to the area where she originally crossed Highway 101.
Biologists have been studying the behavior of the mountain lions for the past 13 years, and there have been a total of about 40 that were identified. Each is named by the number in which they were discovered - meaning P-32 is the 32nd puma scientists discovered.
The crossing follows a flurry of mountain lion news in recent weeks. Earlier this month, P-22 - dubbed The Hollywood Cat - made headlines when it was found in the crawlspace of a home near Griffith Park.
(Article #1614) To read the actual news story click here...
Help Penn State Uncover the Nittany Lion's DNA (4/21/2015)
Penn State students are raising funds to sequence the genome of the extinct Nittany Lion, the beloved mascot of their university. The goal is to study the DNA sequence of Pennsylvania and Northeastern mountain lions, which have been regionally extinct (extirpated) since the late 1800s.
The results from this research will help to raise awareness about wildlife conservation and extinction among those in the Penn State community, and to highlight the involvement of undergraduate students in research at Penn State. The results may also help us to answer questions about the highly controversial and recently delisted "Eastern Cougar" as well as differing views on subspecies of mountain lions throughout the American continents.
As mountain lions have been gone from this region of the country for so long, the DNA from the stuffed and mounted mascots is considered "ancient DNA" -- very fragile and can be recovered only in low quantities. Thus, more sensitive techniques and a highly specialized lab are required for processing the samples.
Penn State's ancient DNA laboratory will be using the same methods that have been recently used to sequence the genomes of Neandertals and mammoths!
The research team needs to raise $12,000 to fund this project. To help, you can donate here!
To learn more about the project and follow its progress, visit the Nattany Lion Genome Project's
Facebook and Twitter pages.
(Article #1613) To read the actual news story click here...
CDFW gets P-22 out from under SoCal home (4/14/2015)
UPDATE: As of 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 14, CDFW and local researchers are reporting P-22 has left the building. His radio collar indicates he has moved out of the crawl space under the Los Feliz home.
The following story was written by Charlotte Alter and originally posted on the LA Times website earlier this morning.
A mountain lion that has been hiding under a Los Angeles home since Monday was still there as of Tuesday morning.
The lion, known as P-22, became famous in the area after National Geographic photographer Steve Winter captured an image of the animal in front of the Hollywood Sign. P-22 spends most of his time in Griffith Park, in the Santa Monica Mountains, but on Monday wandered into a crawlspace under the home of Jason and Paula Archinaco.
The big cat was discovered by two workers who were installing a security system in the home. "I didn't think for two seconds that it was a mountain lion in my house," Jason Archinaco told the Los Angeles Times. "If someone says Bigfoot's in your house, you go, 'Yeah,' and you stick your head in there."
P-22 had to cross two major freeways in order to reach Griffith Park, a feat that has made him into something of a big cat celebrity. The National Geographic shot turned him from wildlife celebrity to bona fide star, and scientists have attached a GPS collar to help track his movements.
To get P-22 out from under the home, officials from the Department of Fish and Wildlife poked the mountain lion with a pole, then threw tennis balls and bean bags at him, but all their efforts have so far been unsuccessful.
The Mountain Lion Foundation will continue to monitor this situation. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest details.
(Article #1612) To read the actual news story click here...
26 Lions Dead in Montana from Traps (4/13/2015)
Even though it's illegal to trap mountain lions in Montana, 48 lions have been captured in traps set for other animals over the past two years. Of those lions captured, 26 died and at least six suffered some form of damage to their paws but were released along with the non-injured lions.
One of the more egregious examples was presented recently by Cal Ruark, a former president of the Bitterroot Houndsmen Association and now a mountain lion advocate. A few weeks back a friend of Ruark's brought him a mountain lion paw, still caught in a steel-jawed wolf trap.
According to his friend there were deep claw marks in a tree near the location of the trap.
"He told me the trees were all tore to hell," Ruark said. "The drag on the trap was hung up on a tree and there were claw marks on the trees where the lion had stood up on its back legs and tried to climb."
Ruark is sure the mountain lion didn't survive.
"It might have been able to get along for a little while, but it's dead now," he said. "It can't hunt on three legs."
To make matters worse for Montana's mountain lions, House Bill 212 by Representative Kirk Wagoner just passed the Governor's desk unsigned. HB 212 changes the Montana Constitution to protect the right to trap.
Governor Steve Bullock's reason for not signing HB 212 was explained by Paul Fielder, a regional chapter director of the Montana Trappers Association.
"This bill was supported by Montana sportsmen and Montana ranchers and Montana farmers and Montana guides and outfitters," said Fielder. "The governor had to choose whether he wanted to upset those groups or not, so he left it alone."
Photo of a lion paw in a wolf trap, from the Missoulian.
(Article #1611) To read the actual news story click here...
Mishka: Washington Fish and Wildlife's first bear dog retires after 12 years of faithful service (4/8/2015)
This story was written by Annette Cary, and posted by the Tri-City Herald on March 19, 2015.
While the following story refers mostly to bears, Mishka and his fellow Karelian bear dogs are similarly used to deal with wayward cougars
Washington's first Karelian bear dog likely has harassed his last bear and sniffed out the wild game bones left behind by a poacher for the final time.
Mishka, after serving the state for 12 years, is headed to a life of leisure after a retirement ceremony Thursday in Kennewick.
He lives on the west side of the state with his handler and owner, Fish and Wildlife officer Bruce Richards, but was honored in Kennewick as the agency's officers gathered there for training this week.
Mishka is part of a breed that is instinctively bold with bears and can be trained to track, help capture and then discourage bears from returning to places where they can get in trouble with people.
Mishka solves more bear problems in a year than most officers can in a career, Richards has said. He also is retiring after 41 years with the agency.
The black and white dog started working with biologist Rocky Spencer, helping with cougar research. He would find the carcasses of prey killed by cats being tracked with state collars.
After Spencer died in a helicopter accident, Richards took over his care in a pilot program to see if Karelian bear dogs could be used in game enforcement programs.
"(Mishka) was very good at finding dead bones," Richards said.
The dog's first test in the enforcement program was to see if he could locate the bones of a poached elk that state enforcement officers had heard about in the Olympic National Park. They had been unable to find the carcass over the course of a year.
Richards took Mishka on a three-hour hike to an area of the park where the elk was believed to have been shot. Then Richards took the dog's halter off, a signal that he was working.
Fifteen minutes later, Mishka was back with an elk bone. He had dug below some leaves in a rocky area that would have been difficult for Richards and other officers to search. A bone with saw marks also was discovered, helping wrap up the case.
"He makes one big game case a year usually," Richards said.
At home with Richards, Mishka is gentle with the orphaned wildlife that Richards' wife will sometimes bottlefeed for a few days for the Fish and Wildlife Department.
"Fawns go up to Mishka and he adopts them," Richards said.
He has been socialized to be good with kids. One of Richards' favorite memories in his years with Mishka was seeing a small boy with spina bifida staring at the dog, obviously entranced, at the state fair in Puyallup.
Richards said the boy, who was not much taller than Mishka, could take him for a walk. The obviously happy child spent 20 minutes slowly and haltingly making his way in a circle around a table, holding Mishka by the collar.
A bear provokes a different reaction from Mishka than the tender side he shows to children and fawns.
"He will go nose to nose with a bear," Richards said.
Karelian bear dogs are used by the state to track bears and cougars. They hunt like a wolf, tracking and then circling their prey. The dogs are so agile that they can bounce around and evade the attack of a dangerous animal, Richards said.
Mishka and other Karelian bear dogs help harass captured bears as they are released. In a "hard release," a bear may be shot with rubber bullets and the dogs released to chase it, re-introducing a fear of civilization to the bears.
"Bears are very, very smart and can be taught to stay away from people," Richards said.
Richards estimates that at least 80 percent of bears trapped and released with the assistance of Mishka avoid becoming repeat offenders, which can lead to them being killed.
Mishka also has been used to confirm that no wild animal is in an area.
In one early case, Richards was called out at night after a couple showed up at Puyallup hospital needing multiple stitches. They had been attacked by a cougar, they said.
But when he and Mishka reached the spot where the couple said they were attacked, Mishka's hair did not stand up like it does if a cougar is in the vicinity. He ran around like he was chasing rabbits rather than hunting a cougar, Richards said.
When they went back to the couple's house, they found the couple's white pit bull in the backyard, covered with blood from attacking its owners.
Without Mishka indicating that there was no cougar, officers could have spent weeks trying to find the nonexistent cougar, and the community would have panicked, Richards said.
Karelian bear dogs were bred for hunting in Finland, where they have been regarded as a national treasure. During World War II Russians killed them, reducing their population to less than 100, Richards said. Today, there are about 400 in the United States.
Mishka came from the kennel of a Florence, Mont., dog breeder, Carrie Hunt. She had traveled to Finland and brought a pair home to the United States to try to save the grizzly bears that were being killed because they became too comfortable around humans in national parks, including Glacier National Park, Richards said.
Mishka can be a handful, Richards said.
"They are called the mule of the dog world - very smart, but very independent," Richards said.
"The hardest thing to do is teach them to come. They want to go," he said. He cannot leave a car window unrolled. If Mishka sees something to chase, he'll be out the window.
However, Mishka is slowing down now. The last time Richards and Mishka were out in the woods, Richards had to lift the dog over a log. His dog is ready to sit in the truck these days, Richards said.
"Mishka has served Washington wildlife enthusiasts well and has more than earned retirement," he said.
Fish and Wildlife will continue to use five other Karelian bear dogs to help with research, haze bears, assist investigations and locate injured and orphaned wildlife. Three are based in western Washington and two others are based in Wenatchee, where they are used mostly for research.
Other states are considering using Karelian bear dogs in their wildlife enforcement programs, thanks to the success of Washington's program, Richards said.
Information about how this program began was featured in Barking Up the Right Tree: Washington's Karelian Bear Dog Program, and listen to our interview On Air with WDFW Officer Jones about the daily life of a warden partnered with a karelian bear dog.
(Article #1610) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain lion tragically killed for defending itself (3/24/2015)
A mountain lion was unfortunately shot and killed by a park ranger in the employee housing area of Glacier National Park in West Glacier Saturday evening.
The incident started around 5 p.m. when the two dogs of a returning park employee unexpectedly raced out of her car and attacked a mountain lion that was lingering nearby.
One of the dogs broke off the fight and quickly retreated back to its owner who had chased after her pets. The other dog however was unable or unwilling to retreat despite efforts from its owner and that of several other housing residents who heard the fight and tried to assist.
Bear spray and a shovel were used, and rocks and logs thrown in a futile effort to stop the fight but to no avail.
The two fighting animals eventually fell over an embankment where the mountain lion pinned the dog near the edge of the Flathead River.
At that point a park ranger arrived on scene and shot the lion. The released dog jumped into the river to escape the encounter where he was later rescued by the ranger with non-life threatening injuries.
Glacier National Park headquarters and its employee housing area had been previously posted with notices about mountain lions frequenting the employee area over the winter months. In addition, a mountain lion had been hazed earlier this winter after being observed in the employee housing area. It is undetermined at this time whether the hazed lion was the same animal involved in Saturday's incident.
Park rangers believe that additional lions may also be in the headquarters' developed area. The park will continue to implement management actions in the area as appropriate, including posting the area to lion frequenting, educational outreach to employees and visitors, area and/or trail closures, hazing and possible removal. These actions are consistent with park management plans.
More information about Protecting People, Pets and Livestock is available on our website, including tips for Staying Safe while Hiking and Biking in cougar country.
(Article #1605) To read the actual news story click here...
Nebraskan farmer kills cowering mountain lion kitten (3/13/2015)
Earlier this week, a farmer and his neighbor were working outside a farmhouse located about five miles south of the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. During the course of their work they heard growling coming from under the farmhouse porch. Further investigation by the pair revealed a frightened mountain lion kitten cowering in the dark.
The farmer proceeded to shoot and kill the animal when he was unable to get the scared kitten to voluntarily exit from its hiding space.
Authorities from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission were notified and the resulting examination showed the mountain lion kitten to be a 4 or 5 month old male, weighing about 40 pounds. It also appeared to be in poor condition with signs of earlier injuries.
Nebraska state law permits people who feel threatened by a mountain lion to shoot the animal.
There is no word yet on whether the killer of this mountain lion kitten will be charged or if he will claim that he felt threatened by the animal.
There have been no documented cases of any mountain lion attacking humans since they started recolonizing the northwest corner of Nebraska in 1991
(Article #1604) To read the actual news story click here...
South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Commission rejects challenges to stop the hounding of lions (3/12/2015)
During last Friday's public hearing, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission (SDGFPC) rejected two challenges to a new rule allowing the use of hounds for hunting mountain lions on private land outside the Black Hills.
The first challenge was a letter questioning the legality of SDGFPC's approval of the new hounding rule since it hadn't passed a review by the state Legislature's Interim Rules Review Committee.
The second challenge was a petition submitted by Dr. Tom Huhnerkoch D.V.M. of Lead, calling for the repeal of the hound hunting rule.
Dr. Huhnerkoch's petition stated that the new hounding rule was made to benefit a small minority group and that there is no problem with mountain lions outside the Black Hills.
In its resolution rejecting Dr. Huhnerkoch's petition, the SDGFPC stated that hunting mountain lions with hounds is an accepted practice elsewhere in the United States and that the Department is well within its rights to allow hound hunting outside the Black Hills. The Commission's resolution said hound hunting provides a recreational opportunity and can help reduce actual livestock losses and the perceived threat of mountain lions.
(Article #1603) To read the actual news story click here...
New Mexico Varmint Bill Stopped (3/10/2015)
Calling it one of the worst pieces of legislation they had seen, members of the New Mexico House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee voted 5-0 yesterday to defeat HB 586, proposed legislation to reclassify mountain lions in New Mexico as varmints.
The bill's author, State Representative Zach Cook, originally tried unsuccessfully to avoid controversy by referring to HB 586 as a "cleanup bill" and "not one of significant change." Last Friday, he even tried to overshadow disapproval from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish by having its former Director, Jim Lane tout the bill before a sympathetic agricultural committee where Lane called the bill "a common-sense" means of better controlling cougar populations.
Fortunately, vocal protests from the Mountain Lion Foundation's members, as well as those of sportsman and conservation groups, such as the Animal Protection Voters, New Mexico Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and the Republicans for Environmental Protection proved sufficient to raise public awareness.
Unwilling to face even more opposition, Cook tried to save his bill by having a colleague, State Representative Jim Smith of Sandia Park, move to have the measure be tabled until a more auspicious time. That move was denied and HB 586 was unanimously voted down.
For more information, review our HB 586 Action Alert. Thank you to everyone who called and wrote letters to the New Mexico legislature to help kill this terrible bill.
(Article #1602) To read the actual news story click here...
New Mexico moves forward on legisation to kill more lions (3/9/2015)
This story was written by Milan Simonich and originally posted on the Santa Fe New Mexican website
Cougars would become an unprotected species in New Mexico under a bill that advanced Friday in the Legislature.
The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee sent the measure forward without recommendation on an 8-2 vote.
The bill would overturn the law that requires a license to hunt cougars. Instead, the mountain cats could be shot or trapped at any time and in any number, putting them in the same league as skunks and coyotes.
Animals are the focus of a number of high-profile bills. Last week, the House wildlife committee killed a bill to outlaw coyote-killing contests. But the full House of Representatives has approved a bill to better protect animals in zoos by adding a criminal penalty.
Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, is sponsoring the measure to eliminate protection of cougars, which he called "a cleanup bill," not one of significant change. Former state game and fish director Jim Lane, serving as Cook's expert, did most of the talking. He presented the bill as "a common-sense" means of better controlling cougar populations.
Lane said cougars inhabit parts of the state that hunters never reach, so the bill would not threaten to make them extinct. He said 2,000 to 2,500 hunting licenses for cougars are sold in New Mexico each year, but kills number only about 200.
Former state senator Tim Jennings, a Democrat from Roswell, held a stuffed lamb as he testified for the bill. He said the sheep industry once flourished in New Mexico, and predators are one of the main reasons for its steep decline.
Ranchers testified that they have been plagued by drought and cannot afford the losses of livestock caused by cougars. And Republican Rep. Andy Nunez, a committee member from Hatch who voted for the bill, said he saw an enormous cougar prowling a golf course in Las Cruces. Nunez said mountains cats are encroaching on cities.
Opponents of the bill far outnumbered those who supported it.
They said Cook's bill was devoid of any science and called it "a knee-jerk reaction" to anecdotal reports of runaway cougar populations killing pets and livestock.
John Crenshaw of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation testified against the bill, saying it was flawed because it removes protection for females and even cubs.
Other critics of the bill said it is illogical, taking away the legal authority of professionals in the state Department of Game and Fish to manage cougar populations.
William Wiley, of the state chapter of Republicans for Environmental Protection, condemned the proposal. "I am full of fury, and I am full of disgust for this bill," he said.
A woman from Albuquerque had a similar assessment: "The only killing that should be done today is to kill this bill," she said.
The Department of Game and Fish "conservatively estimated" that 3,000 to 4,500 cougars inhabit New Mexico.
Alexandra Sandoval, director of the department, said her agency would have no legal authority to respond to complaints about cougars if the bill were approved and signed into law by the governor. She said the department estimates that 700 kills of cougars annually would be the right management number, but it is proceeding with tracking some lions with GPS collars in hopes of getting a better understanding of the population.
Democratic Reps. Bill McCamley of Mesilla Park and Bobby Gonzales of Taos voted against the bill. A mix of Democrats and Republicans supported it.
The bill has two more committee assignments in the House of Representatives. If it clears both, it would reach the full 70-member House for a floor vote.
Help the Mountain Lion Foundation kill this bill; visit our Stop New Mexico House Bill 586 ACTION ALERT. (Article #1601) To read the actual news story click here...
Chambers still fighting for Nebraska's lions (3/2/2015)
The following story was written by AP reporter, Grant Schulte and originally posted on the Lubbock Avalanche Journal website.
Nebraska's longest-serving senator vowed Thursday to outlaw mountain lion hunting in Nebraska even if he has to circumvent a legislative committee to bring it to a vote.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said Nebraska's mountain lion population is so small that the state has no need for a hunting season. As of June, the Game and Parks Commission estimates that 22 mountain lions lived in northwest Nebraska's Pine Ridge region, one of the few habitable areas for the animals.
"Wildlife is a resource for everyone in this state, not just hunters and people who want to see one through a rifle scope," Chambers told the Natural Resources Committee.
Chambers said he objects to hunting tactics such as using dogs to chase mountain lions up a tree and shooting them when they have no way to escape. His bill to end Nebraska's state-sanctioned hunting faces opposition from some committee members, who view it as a useful tool to control the population.
Chambers said that if the committee doesn't send his bill to a vote in the Legislature this year, he'll try to pull it out using procedural motions. If that fails, the longtime animal welfare advocate said he'll attach it as an amendment to other bills.
"I'm not going to try to change your mind, but I'm letting you know - be ready for whatever happens," he said. "... We will be talking about mountain lions all session."
Chambers came close to passing similar legislation last year, but it was vetoed by former Gov. Dave Heineman. Chambers attempted twice to override the veto, and when that failed he attached it as an amendment to every bill awaiting a vote on the session's final day.
The Game and Parks Commission opposes the bill, saying it wants the authority to manage the mountain lion population through hunting. The commission plans to spend $60,000 annually over the next three years for research that could help keep the population sustainable, said Jim Douglas, the executive director.
Hunting groups and the Sidney-based retail outfitting chain Cabela's testified against the bill, saying state biologists should decide how to preserve the population.
"The decision should be made on a scientific basis, not a political basis," said Kevin Werts, an executive at Cabela's.
Western Nebraska senators also oppose the bill, raising concerns about attacks on livestock.
Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala, the committee chairman, said he opposed the bill but was willing to support state funding for research into ways to control the population. Schilz said lawmakers should trust Game and Parks experts to manage the animals responsibly.
Lawmakers approved mountain-lion hunting in 2012, while Chambers was out of office due to term limits.
Mountain lions are native to Nebraska, but vanished in the late 1800s after settlers started poisoning and hunting them. Nebraska has four areas where mountain lion hunting is permitted, and the commission determines which areas can sustain hunting each session.
The Game and Parks Commission canceled this year's hunting season after at least seven mountain lions were killed outside of the official 2014 season. Some were hunted illegally, trapped or struck by vehicles. Those seven died before the Game and Parks estimated the Pine Ridge population was 22, so the number prior to that was likely higher.
Last year, nearly 400 people applied for one of 100 available permits in northwest Nebraska's Pine Ridge district, where most mountain lions are believed to reside.
Sign the Petition to Keep Mountain Lions from Being Hunted in Nebraska (Article #1600) To read the actual news story click here...
Two Montana lion hunters get slap on the wrist for killing a family of lions (2/25/2015)
In January, authorities with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) received a tip that two men, Dwain Robertson and Douglas Smith, had trespassed onto private property, in a region closed to mountain lion hunting, and had possession of the carcass of a juvenile mountain lion.
Investigation of the tip led the landowner and MFWP wardens to the carcass of a female lion at the killing site along with blood in the tracks of another juvenile lion that had wandered off but was never found due to severe winter conditions.
A warranted search of their properties produced sufficient evidence (including the carcass of a 1-year old lion) to charge the two men.
On February 3rd, Dwain Robertson, plead guilty and was fined $3,075 for attempting to take an over limit of mountain lions ($635), unlawful possession of a lion ($535), hunting during a closed season ($535) and two counts of trespass ($370). Robertson was also ordered to pay $1,000 restitution and had his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges revoked for 4 years.
Douglas Smith, plead guilty and was fined $605 for two counts of criminal trespass ($370) and driving off established roads ($235).
Smith plead not guilty to unlawful possession of a mountain lion. No trial date has been scheduled yet. If found guilty, Smith could be fined an additional $535 and loose his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges for two years.
(Article #1599) To read the actual news story click here...