Cougar Clippings
Articles, opinions, and editorials about mountain lions and the Mountain Lion Foundation.
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Kitten Poacher Should Lose License to Hunt for Life! (3/13/2016)
Stephen Trabakoulos, the young man who "harvested" a three-month old female mountain lion kitten in February 2016 took a guilty plea and was sentenced in South Dakota this week. His case is a good example of how low penalties encourage wildlife crimes.

The investigation found that Trabakoulos had not lived in South Dakota long enough to qualify for a hunting license. For this, a Rapid City judge fined Trabakoulos $170.

A Deadwood, South Dakota judge fined Trabakoulos $484 for failing to properly tag killed wildlife. A 10 day jail sentence was dropped. His license to hunt was suspended for one year.

The maximum penalties for the charge of class one misdemeanor of improper tagging are fines to $1,000, one year in jail and loss of hunting privileges for a year. The fines clearly would not even cover the state and county costs for citing, investigating and prosecuting the crime.

Photo of a 3 month old mountain lion kitten.
Loss of hunting privileges for just a year?

Why not allow South Dakota judges to impose sentences for restriction of hunting privileges for a much longer period of time?

Spotted and weighing in at only 14 pounds, the kitten was clearly not a legal target under South Dakota law. See Mountain Lion Foundation's original story on the incident.

On December 30, 2015, Trabakoulos posted this on Facebook: "Tomorrow I'm going to apply for a mountain lion tag, what caliber do y'all suggest. I'm not sure if I want to take the 30-30 or 7mm-08 or 300win mag. Or maybe even 7.62x39." If he had paid even a fraction of the amount of attention to the regulations for hunting lions in South Dakota, he might never have killed a kitten. Or perhaps he knew and just didn't care.

And he's not alone. A late 2015 checkpoint conducted by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department on Interstate 90 found 147 violations among 1,253 hunters checked. That's one in ten, a level that wouldn't be tolerated in other types of crime. And it's level of rulebreaking that wouldn't be allowed in any other "sport".

In a January 2016 article in Outdoor Forum titled Wildlife Crime and Punishment: Why SD needs stiffer fines for trespassing and poaching South Dakota hunting columnist Dana Rogers concluded that "Obviously, nobody is perfect, and mistakes can happen during a hunt. I'm not suggesting we purport or pass laws that are insurmountable for lower-level violations, but if the reward of the illegal activity can be favorably weighed against the risk to these offenders - as is the current case in South Dakota - only the wildlife and legal, ethical hunters pay."

Instagram post with photo of gun.

One of Stephen Trabakoulos' many gun-related posts on Instagram.


















It's not just happening in the wild west. Pennsylvania Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Protection Director Richard Palmer stated in testimony for House Bill 2205, "The causes of poaching vary, but the myth that most poachers are committing their offenses to provide food is in reality not even a fraction of a percentage of all cases prosecuted. Often, modern poaching is done by criminals driving $30,000 vehicles, using expensive night-vision technology, illegal silencers on the firearms, and often military-style rifles."

Link to the South Dakota Mountain Lion Mortality Table.

Our Resolve


We are writing to South Dakota legislators to urge increased penalties for wildlife crimes, and you can help!

What YOU Can Do


If you live in South Dakota, or any other state with laughably low penalties for wildlife crime, contact your local state representative and encourage them to increase the penalties and fines for serious wildlife violations.

You can follow the number of mountain lions killed in South Dakota at Mountain Lion Mortality Table, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

(Article #1693) To read the actual news story click here...

Hollywood Lion Suspected of Preying on Koala (3/10/2016)
Celebrities are known for their unusual diets and trying exotic foods. Apparently P-22, California's Hollywood Lion, is no different. On Wednesday night, the lion wound up in the Los Angeles Zoo and is suspected of killing a koala.

Perhaps the oddest fact about this situation is not the koala, but that P-22 is so well-loved that he is unlikely to be killed for preying on a zoo animal. Many other lions believed to have injured domestic animals are killed under depredation permits.
California Depredation.
At least 256 lions were targeted to be killed under California depredation permits in 2015, and at least 107 were killed as a result.

Remember that P-22 is a celebrity lion who has been treated quite differently than most wild lions since the day he was discovered. He is protected by public opinion, not true for lions in other places, even in California. While a mountain lion's primary prey is deer, the cats are opportunistic hunters, and will eat all kinds of animals, from coyotes to porcupines.

At some point during a lion's life, the odds are he'll come upon a domestic animal. The majority of pet and livestock owners living in lion habitat do not take the necessary steps to protect their animals from wild predators. Unprotected pets and livestock are an easy meal for a hungry lion. But since the cats are adapted to hunting deer and other small wild mammals, conflicts with domestic animals remain relatively rare.

It's like your friend who eats healthy and rarely indulges in greasy fast food. But every once in a while after a long day and not eating, she won't say no to the plate of hot french fries if they're already on the table. It's not a regular occurrence, but survival instincts tell us to eat whatever is available rather than starve.

P-22 has been living in Griffith Park since 2012. He contracted mange, has been spotted on security cameras near homes at night, and even napped under a house which startled maintenance workers, but he has managed to stay out of trouble despite living within miles of ten million people and their pets.

Depredation permit thumbnail.Part of his ability to stay out of trouble is because southern California residents have been taught a lot about their local lions and have learned to value them, and part is because P-22 is included in a study where researchers can step in when trouble looms. For example, few lions not part of a research study would have been treated for mange.

It's important to remember that most California mountain lions are in serious trouble, and don't have some of the advantages of P-22 and his family in the Santa Monica Mountains.

All of the mountain lion studies currently under way in California have found high incidence of poisons from rodenticides, heavy losses to road kill, and losses on depredation permits, for their collared research lions. Some have found anomalies like kinked tails which point to significant isolation of populations and a diminishing genetic pool.

Los Angeles Zoo staff spotted P-22 on security cameras earlier this year, but they haven't been able to figure out how the large cat is entering and leaving the property. The lion was spotted on camera the night the koala went missing. The marsupial was later found about 400 yards away and had succumbed to its injuries.

It is often very difficult to tell whether a mountain lion was in fact responsible for a kill. Although there are tell-tale signs, mountain lion presence is not conclusive. We have learned in the past couple of decades that lions scavenge the kills of other animals, and even scavenge animals that died of natural causes.

Stienstra blog.City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell believes this incident highlights the need to move P-22 to a "more remote wild area where he has adequate space to roam without the possibility of human interaction." Though in a state with roughly 40 million people, it's not clear where this human-less space is located.

Others think this is an opportunity to remind LA residents and animal parks how to coexist with wild neighbors. The zoo's enclosures should be lion-proofed rather than send the message that native animals should be displaced for our convenience. The LA Zoo seems to agree, with its director John Lewis commenting to NBC news, "There's a lot of native wildlife in this area. This is their home. So we'll learn to adapt to P-22 just like he's learned to adapt to us."

Kate Kuykendall of the National Park Service added, "This is not a situation where we can get rid of the native wildlife and not expect this to happen again."

Countless studies have shown that removing a mountain lion only opens up the territory for multiple younger, inexperienced lions to move in. Encounters and conflicts can actually increase after a lion is removed. P-22 has been a pretty good neighbor and the best way to prevent any future incidents is to encourage him to stay near deer herds and avoid looking for food near human-occupied areas. This means:

  • bringing domestic animals into fully-enclosed structures between dusk and dawn

  • securing pet food and garbage to avoid attracting lion prey into the area

  • clearing brush from around animal enclosures where lions may hide to ambush prey

  • installing frightening devices to scare lions and other wild animals away


Additional information can be found in these sections of our website:

Stay Safe Hiking and Biking - www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectstaysafe.asp
Protecting Pets - http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectpets.asp
Protecting Livestock - http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectlivestock.asp
Safety During a Lion Encounter - http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectencounters.asp


VIEW NEWS COVERAGE BY NBC4 IN LOS ANGELES


Our Resolve


We are sending a thank you letter to Los Angeles Zoo director John Lewis thanking him for not requesting a permit to kill the lion, and for disagreeing with those who want to see P-22 moved out of Griffith Park.

Lewis' desire to protect the zoo's animals while coexisting with local native wildlife sets a great example for other animal parks to follow.

MLF is also offering our services to help secure animal enclosures from wild predators and assist with community education programs.

P-22 videotaped at LA Zoo

What YOU Can Do



Send a thank you letter to the zoo for not wanting P-22 killed or moved from his home in Griffith Park. Encourage them to consider updating their protection practices for all the zoo's animals and bring smaller critters indoors at night.

Los Angeles Zoo
Attn: Director John Lewis
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Please also take some time to learn more about California's depredation laws and ways to reduce conflicts. Mountain lions are struggling, especially in southern California, and changes to human behavior can make a world of difference to their chances for long term survival.

(Article #1691) To read the actual news story click here...

Colorado's March 2016 Commission Meeting (3/9/2016)
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission — the entity that oversees the State's wildlife agency — is holding its monthly meeting March 9-10, 2016 at Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Hunter Education Building in Denver.

While many of the issues being considered could indirectly impact mountain lions, topics of interest directly related to the species include agenda items:

  • 3. Principles and Ethics of Fair Chase - mountain lion trapping is not permitted in Colorado, but hunters may use a pack of up to 8 dogs to track, chase and tree lions so they can be shot out of a tree at close range.

  • 15. Big Game - Open for consideration of any necessary corrections or administrative clean-ups to regulations previously adopted by the Parks and Wildlife Commission for the 2016 big game seasons, including, but not limited to, game management unit boundaries, season dates, limited license areas and manner of take provisions for bighorn sheep, mountain goat, deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bear and mountain lion, and regulations otherwise necessary for implementation of the 2016 big game seasons.

  • 32.(a) Game Damage Claims - approval of $21,017.65 and $62,045.51 for sheep lost to bear and mountain lion.


You can view all the agenda items and listen live to the meeting here:
http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/CommissionMeeting2016-3.aspx

If you live in the Denver area, please consider attending in person:
CPW Hunter Education Building
6060 Broadway
Denver CO 80216

Mountain lions don't stay within state borders, so no matter where you live, Colorado's policies impact YOUR mountain lions. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and join our mailing list to learn more about the issues and how to have your voice heard at state commission meetings and in the Legislature.


(Article #1690) To read the actual news story click here...

Lion Protection Bill Heads to Committee (2/23/2016)
The bill to stop mountain lion hunting in Nebraska (LB 961) was heard by the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, February 25. It was not voted on and remains stuck in this committee.

We need lots of help in just a little bit of time! Please contact the committee members (email addresses and phone numbers below), and urge them to vote in favor of Legislative Bill 961.

Introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers, LB 961 is a third attempt at critical legislation to prohibit mountain lion sport hunting in Nebraska.

Last year's version of this bill was killed by the same committee, and Chairperson Senator Ken Schilz commented Nebraska Game and Parks Commission needs to be able to use hunting as a tool to control wildlife. Other committee members said that if the legislature banned the hunting of mountain lions, they may be pressured to outlaw the hunting of other species in the future.

"There is no need or justification whatsoever to hunt these animals," Senator Chambers has remarked about mountain lions. "It's cruelty. It's barbaric. I will do what I can to stop it."

To help LB 961 pass through the Natural Resources Committee, the public needs to speak up in support of mountain lion protection. There are very few lions in small regions of Nebraska and the species could easily be wiped out before ever fully reestablishing a population in the state.

If you don't want to see another lion killed for fun in Nebraska, please take a moment to share your perspective.
MLF's letter.

Contact the Nebraska Natural Resources Committee:


Sen. Ken Schilz, Chairperson - kschilz@leg.ne.gov - (402) 471-2616
Sen. Curt Friesen - cfriesen@leg.ne.gov - (402) 471-2630
Sen. Dan Hughes - dhughes@leg.ne.gov - (402) 471-2805
Sen. Jerry Johnson - jjohnson@leg.ne.gov - (402) 471-2719
Sen. Rick Kolowski - rkolowski@leg.ne.gov - (402) 471-2327
Sen. Brett Lindstrom - blindstrom@leg.ne.gov - (402) 471-2618
Sen. John McCollister - jmccollister@leg.ne.gov - (402) 471-2622
Sen. David Schnoor - dschnoor@leg.ne.gov - (402) 471-2625

What to Say:


Dear Natural Resources Committee,
I am writing to you today in support of LB 961. Please include my letter in the official record.

  • Sport hunting is a terrible way to manage mountain lion populations.

  • Nebraska's mountain lion population is far too small to withstand a hunting season.

  • Over hunting eliminated the mountain lion from Nebraska a hundred years ago. We must learn from this mistake and protect the returning cats.

  • Sport hunting could trigger conditions that lead to more conflicts between the lions, livestock and people.

  • The majority of residents in Nebraska want a healthy mountain lion population and the best way to achieve this is by stopping the hunt and passing LB 961.


Please also cc us on your emails (info@mountainlion.org) or send a quick note to let us know you telephoned the committee members.

Thank you so much. Together, we can protect America's lion.


(Article #1689) To read the actual news story click here...

Santa Cruz Lion Freed: Thank You California! (2/21/2016)
California's latest mountain lion rescue took place Sunday afternoon near Santa Cruz. See the video HERE, and please leave your thanks on Facebook to Fish and Wildlife for making the right decision to relocate this lion back to its natural habitat.

Near downtown, the mountain lion had been spotted in the 100 block of Escalona Drive on Saturday.

Department of Fish and Wildlife units worked with Santa Cruz police to locate the lion. Fish and Wildlife staff tranquilized the animal and set it free in its natural habitat.

Young mountain lion released at night. Since 2013 when the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFW) changed their guidelines and Mountain Lion Foundation helped pass enabling legislation (SB132) with
Senator Jerry Hill, nearly a dozen mountain lions have been successfully relocated in California.

Under previous guidelines, wardens were given no choice but to kill the lion if it was in a human occupied area.

Here at Mountain Lion Foundation, we only wish that other states would adopt similar guidelines.

Young mountain lion tranquilized. Bay Area relocation efforts are assisted by the efforts of BACAT, a model program being developed by MLF, Oakland Zoo, Felidae, CDFW and other organizations and individuals to create standard protocols for responding to lions that wander into towns and cities.

The Santa Cruz Puma Project has been tracking mountain lions in the area since 2008. This was not one of their collared cats.

Lions benefit by nearby research activities and response teams because skilled professionals and tools such as cages and tranquilizers are nearby. Also, property owners are well known, and the location of territories occupied by other lions are better understood.

Thank you California and CDFW for making the right decisions to treat our big cats as an important part of ecosystems!

How YOU Can Help


Don't forget to see the video HERE, and leave your thanks on Facebook to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their efforts to relocate this lion back to its natural habitat.

(Photos courtesy of CDFW)




(Article #1688) To read the actual news story click here...

Nebraska Mountain Lion License Plates (2/18/2016)
Senator Ernie Chambers is one step away from creating special mountain lion conservation license plates in Nebraska.

Legislative Bill 474 passed through the Nebraska legislature today with a vote of 47-0. It is now sitting on the Governor's desk waiting to be signed into law. If the Governor approves, as soon as October 2016 Nebraska residents could apply for mountain lion conservation plates for their vehicles.

A fee of $5 will be charged for the special plates, and deposited into a new Game and Parks Commission Educational Fund. This money will be used "to provide youth education programs relating to wildlife conservation practices."

Our Resolve

MLF's letter.
We are sending a letter to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts asking him to please sign LB 474 into law. These license plates are a great way for residents to show their support for mountain lions and contribute financially to wildlife conservation programs.

What YOU Can Do


Please take a few minutes to contact Governor Ricketts and encourage him to sign LB 474. Let him know creating mountain lion conservation license plates is an all around win for residents, wildlife, and the Game and Parks Commission.

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 94848
Lincoln, NE 68509-4848

Phone: 402-471-2244
Fax: 402-471-6031

Or submit your comments through the Governor's website Email Form
(Article #1687) To read the actual news story click here...

Young California Lion Finds Helping Hands (2/16/2016)
On Valentines Day, at 5:17 in the afternoon,Animal Rescue Team, Inc.'s 24/7 wildlife rescue hotline received a call that a sick and injured bobcat was in need of help at Sycamore Valley Ranch on Figueroa Mountain Road.

Julia Di Sieno, founder of Animal Rescue Team, describes the scene: "Upon our arrival we discovered a young starving mountain lion with spots, missing most of the tail. Bone was showing. And although we estimated a weight of no more than 14 pounds the lion should have weighed much more given its age. It was hiding underneath a car, and so weak it was very easy to contain."

The sedation and capture took nearly 6 hours and was ultimately successful. He was finally taken to a wildlife veterinarian for emergency care.

Sedated young mountain lion ready for transport.

Following the incident, the ranch owner took the time thank the Animal Rescue Team for taking the lead in coordinating the medical evacuation.

"ART is happy with the CDFW biologist's final decision in saving this guy from further suffering," said Julia, "and, we enjoyed every moment helping."

Following up on Tuesday, Julia revealed that "we learned the lion has survived capturing and treatment, but he has a very long road to recovery."

On February 19, Mountain Lion Foundation learned that the young lion had died. We have little additional information. Fewer than 50% of lions make it to their first birthdays, a fact of nature, inescapable. When injured, sick or orphaned wild animals seek shelter in human inhabited areas, we are glad to see organizations like Animal Rescue Team, and wildlife veterinarians, available to make well informed decisions for the animal's future.

Animal Rescue Team is located in Santa Ynez, California, and provides quality animal rescue, treatment, rehabilitation, and release to sick, injured, orphaned and displaced animals in accordance with current standards in the field.

During the Jesusita Fire ART. rescued over 200 animals, wild and domestic, working with police and fire officials to get wild animals the help
they needed.

Julia di Sieno has long worked to provide Mountain Lion Foundation with good information about best practices in rescue and rehabilitation, and also works closely with CDFW to respond to sick, orphaned, or injured mountain lions in her area.

Generally, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife does not do wildlife rehabilitation. The Department licenses properly trained and experienced wildlife rehabilitators like Julia, who do the actual work.

Wildlife rehabilitators rescue ill, injured and orphaned wildlife for release back to the wild. Most wildlife rehabilitators are volunteers who must pay for permits, cages, food, and veterinary care. ART receives no money or compensation from the state or federal governments to care for these animals.

In 2009, Julia rescued two orphaned mountain lion kittens in Solvang, and nearly got jailed for her good deed. That story is told at The Day the Safety Net Failed.

Under current California law and policy, only CDFW may treat and transport injured, orphaned or sick mountain lions. The majority of these end up in zoos or sanctuaries. Often, kittens are found dehydrated and malnourished following the loss of their mothers.

As if it were not enough to care for wildlife injured in her region, Julia has also doggedly pursued changes in policy related to the rapid proliferation of vineyards in parts of California, and the impact of vineyards on wildlife.

Few people realize that hundreds of deer are killed each year for "depredating" on grapes, and that some vineyard operators are unwilling to take steps to keep deer from entering, preferring to allow farm workers to kill the deer and take the meat for payment. Often, diminishing deer herds are blamed on local predators like mountain lions and coyotes, who have also been forced out of habitat by new vineyard operations.

Young mountain lion awaiting authorities.

For more information about how to support the Animal Rescue Team, Inc. visit their website or their Facebook page.








Young male mountain lion awaits the arrival of authorities.


(Article #1686) To read the actual news story click here...

South Dakota Lion Kills Rise as Population Dwindles (2/13/2016)
On February 3, 2016, news outlets in South Dakota reported that 20 mountain lions had been killed so far in the 2016 Black Hills season. 13 of the 20 were females.

Two days later a hunter in Lawrence County, South Dakota "harvested" a three-month old female kitten.

Mountain Lion Foundation is convinced that South Dakota's tiny and fragile mountain lion population is finally succumbing to the profound overhunting that has accrued since 2005 when hunting of mountain lions began in the state.

According to Regional Supervisor Mike Kintigh, "The 14-pound cat shot in Lawrence County was determined to be an approximately three month old mountain lion based on the size and spotted markings."

Photo of a 3 month old mountain lion kitten.
South Dakotans pride themselves on their outdoor lifestyle, including hunting and fishing. But where is the bravery in killing a 3 month-old kitten no bigger than a housecat? Is this fair chase? At what point does pistol-packin' independence warp into a complete lack of compassion?





"Given the right conditions, it would be very difficult to see that they were in fact spotted at, you know, a distance of 100 yards when they might be hunting. We take all of that into account when we investigate these cases", said Kintigh.

But in this case, the kitten was in fact so small that it is difficult to understand how such a mistake could have been made.

This inability to discern the size and sex of lions is one of the reasons that Mountain Lion Foundation has urged an end to trophy hunting. Loss of female and pregnant cats can have devastating impacts on small breeding populations. The orphaning, starvation and slow death of kittens is inhumane. So is the loss of a kitten to a mother cat.

The hunter was cited for a class one misdemeanor improper tagging, which carries a penalty of fines to $1,000, one year in jail and loss of hunting privileges for a year.

Our Resolve


We reached out by telephone to John Kanta at South Dakota's Department of Game, Fish and Parks last Tuesday to find out more about the kitten that was killed, and to ask what Mountain Lion Foundation members can do to encourage an end to South Dakota's mountain lion hunt.

Perhaps by working to mend fences with agency biologists, we can come to a better understanding of why South Dakota's treatment of mountain lions continues to go so wrong.

Mr. Kanta indicated that the violator had been cited, and that he would be happy to meet with MLF later this year.

We also commented on South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Facebook Page to thank them for their action in citing the offending hunter. See our post to their page here.
Link to the South Dakota Mountain Lion Mortality Table.

What YOU Can DO


You can follow the number of mountain lions killed in South Dakota at Mountain Lion Mortality Table, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

You can express your THANKS to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks for acting on this hunting violation, by email to SDGFPinfo@state.sd.us or you can comment on their Facebook Page.

Ask them to urge South Dakota prosecutors to seek the full penalities for this violation.

Please also send MLF a copy of your email and cc: your emails to info@mountainlion.org. Thank you!

(Article #1679) To read the actual news story click here...

Shut Your Big Trap! (2/13/2016)
By Robert Basler
Reprinted with permission from author and the Santa Fe Reporter.

You wanna play hiking roulette?

For people who love the outdoors, New Mexico is truly a magical place.

You can hike for miles and miles on public land, marvel over indescribable vistas, gasp at exotic wildlife, desperately try to free your faithful dog from a hidden steel trap...

Hold on. Traps on public land? Can that be true? Indeed it can. New Mexico True, as we like to say.

Already this year, dog injuries have been reported in Santa Fe County and elsewhere in the state, thanks to traps that may legally be placed just 25 yards off the trails we all use. Moreover, if the trail is unmapped, the traps don't need to be set back at all. In 2014, a dog walking with its owners in Los Alamos County was injured in a trap hidden just one foot from the trail.

Please explain this insanity to me. Why is it a trapper's right to take a device straight out of a medieval torture chamber and hide it where I go for recreation? That's like sinking live torpedoes in the community swimming hole!

From there, it just gets dumber. I'm afraid dumb is going to have to pass for humor today, but donít worry, I've got plenty of it. The dumb won't run out, my friends.

These traps are not marked with warning signs. Trappers must be afraid some of our smarter wildlife might learn to read, thus avoiding a lingering and painful death.

You think the dumb is finished? Think again. You, as a taxpayer, have virtually no rights when it comes to these traps. If your dog gets caught in one, you may release it, but if you find any other poor animal suffering there, you must leave it until the trapper comes to kill it, maybe today, maybe tomorrow.

It's also illegal for you to spring a trap you find in order to protect wildlife. Good Samaritans, just keep moving along.

Shouldn't people just keep their dogs on a leash? Normally, yes. But dogs on public land aren't required to be leashed. If they were, hunters couldn't use bird dogs, and rescue dogs would be pretty worthless at their job.

Maybe you're thinking, But Bob, folks have to make a living, don't they?

Guy with sword and dressed in furs. Let me answer that as diplomatically as I can. Yes, but this is a shabby, shameless, stupid-ass living, killing animals to make fur garments that people shouldn't be wearing anyway, unless they're appearing in Game of Thrones.

Animal traps are like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get. Back in 2008, wildlife agents spread out snare traps on public land after a mountain lion killed someone. But before the lion could be trapped, a woman was injured when her horse was caught in one of the snares. A javelina was caught in another snare, and its thrashing attracted a bear, who began to eat the javelina until the bear got caught in yet another snare and was seriously injured, having to be euthanized. It was like some insane video game, but with living creatures.

Lest you think leg traps are just a fact of life, they are not. They are banned in more than 80 foreign countries and at least eight US states, including Arizona and Colorado.

People, please have a word with your legislators about this. Nobody expects us to join the 21st century right away, but maybe we could give the 20th century a try? Because New Mexico, the state that figures out the least it can do for its wildlife and then does even less, recently made it easier to trap cougars. Yes, easier.

Which explains the state's new license plate slogan you'll be seeing soon. New Mexico: Come for a hike, leave with a stump!


Please leave your positive comments for Robert Basler on the
Santa Fe Reporter web page!

Photo Illustration by Anson Stevens-Bollen (Article #1682) To read the actual news story click here...

Happy Birthday, Charles! You were a lion! (2/12/2016)
We'll be there to greet you at Sacramento's Darwin Day, tomorrow, Saturday, February 13 from 2:30 to 4:00 PM. For those who live elsewhere on the evolving planet, visit darwinday.org

Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Much of the work of the Mountain Lion Foundation is to convince people to adopt a new perspective on America's Lions. Today, we hope you'll encourage a hunter or rancher to be the one responsive to change.

The speaker in Sacramento this year is paleontologist Matthew J. James, PhD., Chair of the Department of Geology and Professor of Paleontology and Geology at Sonoma State University. He will entertain and inform about the 1905-06 scientific collecting expedition to the Galapagos Islands conducted by the California Academy of Sciences.

The topic is: "Collecting Evolution: The 1905-06 Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Charles Darwin"

Dr. James grew up on Oʻahu and did his undergraduate work at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is the recipient of the 2011 Karl Kortum Award for Maritime History for his work on the 1905-06 expedition. He has worked on Galapagos science, history, and conservation for 30 years, since first visiting the islands in 1982 on a paleontology expedition.

What is Darwin Day? It is an annual celebration of scientific inquiry honoring the life and work of the great Charles Darwin (born February 12, 1809), and sponsored worldwide by community and educational groups. For its very respectable history, visit the International Darwin Day Foundation.

Click
HERE for the full announcement, which includes links to the online payment page and to the 2016 Sacramento Darwin Day Flyer.

Ask a Hunter to Be the One Responsive to Change
(Article #1681) To read the actual news story click here...

Wyoming's Lions Escape Trapping Plan (2/10/2016)
By Dr. Mark Elbroch, Lead Scientist, Panthera's Puma Program
Cartoon courtesy of the Jackson Hole News and Guide

In January a bill was introduced in the Wyoming Legislature that, if it had passed, would have allowed any person with a valid hunting license to kill a mountain lion using a trap or snare. As a Wyoming resident and biologist, I'm thrilled to tell you that our Legislature voted yesterday in favor of science and to protect the balance of nature on which our state so deeply depends.

HB12 failed to pass the House on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, at 2:23 p.m. This bill was not based on valid research, and the potential negative consequences for mountain lions, other wildlife, Wyoming citizens and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would have been far-reaching.

Ostensibly, this bill was introduced to provide "additional tools" to reverse recent mule deer population declines, a valuable game species for Wyoming residents. In reality, the connection between mountain lions and mule deer population declines is tenuous at best. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has said that mule deer declines are largely the result of other factors, including habitat loss and disruption to migration corridors.
Cartoon of man with foot in trap, legislature written on his back and trap chain marked with cruelty and no science.
It is also well accepted among wildlife biologists that deer dynamics are driven primarily by weather patterns and resulting forage availability, not predators. In fact, a recent intensive, long-term study from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game emphasized that removing mountain lions and coyotes did not provide any long-term benefit to deer populations. The researchers reported: "In conclusion, benefits of predator removal appear to be marginal and short term in southeastern Idaho and likely will not appreciably change long-term dynamics of mule deer populations in the intermountain west."

Like mule deer, mountain lions are also experiencing significant population declines in some areas. Research conducted by Panthera's Teton Cougar Project in Teton County, Wyoming, shows that lion numbers north of Jackson have declined by half in eight years. Mountain lions in Wyoming are hunted with all legal firearms, archery equipment and trailing hounds, and these methods have proven effective in reducing mountain lion populations across the West. Introducing trapping — an imprecise method of hunting — could have crippled mountain lion populations further, as well as rapidly and unexpectedly influenced other wildlife populations.

The nature of trapping is indiscriminate. Trapping consists of snares and leghold traps, including steel jaws, which often cause serious injury to animals — breaking legs, ripping skin or completely severing limbs, via the trap or through self-mutilation. Traps deliver painful, slow deaths to wildlife and domestic animals unlucky enough to be caught. In Wyoming it is currently illegal to kill a female mountain lion with kittens or the kittens themselves. However, a trapper cannot dictate what animal is caught, resulting in the potential maiming or killing of female mountain lions, their kittens or federally listed wolves, wolverines, Canada lynx or grizzly bears. Traps may also injure people should they stumble into one.

Importantly, voting down HB12 maintained protection for the reproductive capital of our mountain lion populations: female mountain lions with kittens and the kittens themselves.

Trapping is not only imprecise in its implementation, it is also nearly impossible to track and monitor. This bill would have completely undermined mountain lion management currently conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, introducing chaos to a tracking system that may not be ideal but works. When Wyoming's House and Senate representatives introduce legislation that threatens their own Wyoming Game and Fish Department's ability to protect our state's immense and singular biodiversity, something is clearly wrong.

But Rep. Sam Krone eloquently opposed the bill for sportsmen against indiscriminate trapping, followed by Rep. Charles Pelkey, who emphasized the potential consequences of increased trapping on domestic animals and people. In the end the bill did not gain the required two-thirds majority to move forward.

Action alert, click here to sign the petition.Every year visitors flock to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, investing millions of dollars in Wyoming communities in the hope of glimpsing charismatic apex predators like the mountain lion. In voting down HB12, Wyoming voted for sustainable, scientific decision-making for our state and every creature with which we share this precarious and wonderful balance that we call home. In voting against mountain lion trapping, Wyoming chose evidence-based science over old mythology perpetuating fear and persecution of this amazing animal. It made me proud to live in Wyoming.

Yet the possibility remains that this bill will be reintroduced to the Senate this week. To ensure Wyoming's mountain lion trapping legislation stops in its tracks, continue to contact members of the Wyoming legislature this week.

If the bill is halted, New Mexico and Texas will be the only states in our country to allow the trapping of mountain lions.


(Article #1680) To read the actual news story click here...

Colorado's First Wildlife Bridge (2/4/2016)
Colorado's first wildlife bridge is proving to be a huge success. Saving the lives of both wildlife and motorists, the wildlife overpass on Highway 9 in Grand County was designed to reduce collisions on one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the state.

The multi-million dollar project is the first of its kind in Colorado. Cameras placed on the bridge show deer and a fox have already utilized the safe crossing. Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Cowardin told CBS, "Within days of it being completed we started having evidence of deer using the overpass on a daily basis."

The bridge is located on a deadly 10-mile stretch of Highway between Silverthorne and Kremmling. Nearly 600 car accidents and 16 fatalities have been reported during the last 20 years, with more than 500 animals killed on the road in the just the last decade.
Design of Hwy 9 overpass.
Mike Ritschard is the spokesman for a local group known as Citizens for a Safer Highway 9 and knows firsthand how treacherous this section of road can be. Ritschard lost his parents in an automobile collision on Highway 9 thirty years ago. He told reporters he "always hoped this road would be improved. Never dreamed we would have this opportunity and now we do."

The overpass is part of a larger plan promoted in 2013, which would include five underpasses, two overpasses, fencing to corral wildlife to the safe crossing sites, and widening the road in certain areas. The price tag: a whopping $46 million.

To make matters worse, the Highway 9 crossing project was just one of more than 200 proposals competing for funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) program known as RAMP — Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships — designed to combine state and local money to fund desperately-needed road projects. The Highway 9 project would have to raise 20% of the $46 million in a matter of months to be considered.

A fundraising campaign started in May 2013 with the deadline of July 1 to hit the nearly $10 million needed. Kicking off the pool, $5 million was given by the wealthy owner of Blue Valley Ranch which borders the highway. The community then came together in full force, with more than 250 donors raising over one million dollars in 40 days.

As the final deadline approached, the community asked Grand County to contribute the remaining the $3 million to get the project off the ground. Citizens approached the commission, citing the need to protect residents, tourists and wildlife, along with the desire to have Grand be a model for the rest of the state
Early construction of HWY 9 overpass.
The Commission agreed to foot the bill, with one commissioner remarking this would not be an expense, but rather an investment in the future. Perry Handyside from Blue Valley Ranch commented, "The Grand County commissioners have provided the leadership for this project. We're in partnership with Grand County and CDOT [...] it's a worthy cause."

"Highway 9 has been the most dangerous highway as far as collision with wildlife, so this is a long overdue and very innovative project," said Cathy Connell, Commissioner of District 6 for Colorado Department of Transportation.

"This could not have been done with one agency, or completed with one group. It has taken multiple committees, businesses, agencies, to get a project this size completed," said Michelle Cowardin of Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

"This is the first overpass built in Colorado but I think the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado Parks and Wildlife and even the public are looking at this and asking, 'Why aren't we doing more of these elsewhere in the state?'" Cowardin added.

Watch deer use the brand new crossing courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and CBS Denver:


See more on the CBS Denver website.

Our Resolve


The Mountain Lion Foundation is sending a thank you letter to five of the critical groups who made this historic wildlife overpass a reality. Not only have they made Highway 9 safer for people and wildlife, they have made Grand County, Colorado, a role model for the rest of the country.

What YOU Can Do


Contact your state's Department of Transportation and urge them to be mindful of wildlife issues. Encourage partnerships to build safe crossings on existing roads, and incorporate both fencing and crossings into construction plans for all new roads.

You can also thank the organizations and agencies involved in the Highway 9 crossing for their determination and success.
MLF's thank you letter.
CO Department of Transportation
4201 E. Arkansas Avenue
Denver CO 80222
dot_info@state.co.us

Grand Foundation
Citizens for a Safer Hwy 9
P.O. Box 1342
Winter Park, CO 80482
info@grandfoundation.com

Colorado Parks and Wildlife
1313 Sherman Street, 6th Floor
Denver, CO 80203

Grand County Commission
308 Byers Ave.
P.O. Box 264
Hot Sulphur Springs, CO 80451
rpinney@co.grand.co.us

Blue Valley Ranch
6915 CO-9
Kremmling, CO 80459
info@bluevalleyranch.com


(Article #1678) To read the actual news story click here...

Lion Confirmed in Tennessee! (1/28/2016)
Making history, Tennessee confirms its first mountain lion in over 100 years!

In October 2015, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) received photos from the trail camera of an Obion County hunter claiming to have proof of a mountain lion. Because most lion images circulated online are either mistaken identity or from another location, TWRA took some time to investigate the photos and ensure this wasn't just another hoax.

After careful analysis of the images, TWRA has confirmed there was in fact a mountain lion in Tennessee.

In a press release, the agency reminded residents, the "confirmation of one animal [...] does not mean there is an established population. A cougar sighting could easily be attributed to a transient young male or an illegal release of a captive animal."

The odds are this cat is a young male kicked out of his mother's home rage in a western state. He is searching for an available territory with food (preferably deer), water, cover and female lions. Until he finds a landscape with all four necessities, this cat will likely continue to wander. He may very well already have crossed into another state by now.

Since the photos were reported in October, at least two other sightings have occurred. A definite confirmation was a trail camera video taken just outside Nashville during Thanksgiving weekend. There's a chance it's the same lion since covering 200 miles in two months is an easy trek for a dispersing mountain lion.



With all the attention mountain lions have been receiving in the state, TWRA has created a "Cougars in Tennessee" webpage dedicated solely to the stealthy cat. The page provides some background information on lion biology and the species' history in Tennessee. Residents can also learn more about confirmations and how to submit proof for review by the agency.

TWRA reminds the public, "Because Tennessee law protects all animals for which no hunting season is proclaimed, the cougar is protected in Tennessee. It is illegal to kill a cougar in Tennessee except in the case of imminent threat of life and injury. Also, if a landowner is experiencing property damage made by wildlife, that landowner has the right to protect his/her property. TWRA has never, nor has it any plans to stock or otherwise physically encourage the establishment of a cougar population in Tennessee. TWRA plans to monitor the natural expansion of the cougar from the western US as it pertains to Tennessee."

Though against the law, dispersing lions in the Midwest and eastern states often find themselves in the crosshairs of hunters willing to risk a small fine for the thrill of shooting such a rare animal. Poaching laws in Tennessee provide some protection of mountain lions, but only as a deterrent. It is rare for penalties to be sufficiently harsh to keep poachers from poaching again. State law specifies that killing any animal contrary to the legal means, devices, or times laid out in the state's legal code is a Class B misdemeanor. A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 6 months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $500. This is significantly cheaper than the cost of flying west for a guided lion hunt.

But the Mountain Lion Foundation and its thousands of supporters hope this roaming lion stays out of harm's way. Fingers are crossed that he finds a place with female lions and sets up a territory. We can increase his chances by continuing to protect wild places, contacting legislators to pass laws that prohibit lion hunting, and increasing the penalties for those who violate game laws by poaching our precious wild life.

Together, we can work towards a future where lions once again roam Tennessee and the entire Appalachian Mountains. Please join us today!




(Article #1676) To read the actual news story click here...

THANK NYE NEVADA SHERIFF FOR TELLING US THE TRUTH (1/28/2016)
Mountain Lion Foundation is in Nevada all this week, and so it might seem like a coincidence that a mountain lion was killed in Las Vegas just as we were checking in for a series of public meetings that will affect mountain lions in Nevada. But it happens all too often.

Monday, January 25, 2016 Nye County law enforcement received a report of a mountain lion in Pahrump, Nevada (just west of Las Vegas). Animal Control responded to a report of a mountain lion in the area and found the mountain lion in a thicket near some homes.

The Nye County Sheriff's Office then set up a perimeter to ensure the safety of residents, and called on the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Read the press release here.

Pahrump Lion in Thicket and Chain Link

Nevada Fish and Wildlife officers made the decision to shoot and kill the young lion. Although the Sheriff's office indicated that the location did not allow NDOW to tranquilize, it is difficult to understand why experienced wildlife officers could not have hazed the lion back into the wild, or tranquilized and relocated the lion once they had established the public safety perimeter.

Pahrump Lion Carried Away

From the size of the lion apparent in the photo, it is clear that the lion posed little public safety danger, and was little more than a kitten.

The maps and photos seem to show access to open space. Obviously they had clear shot at the lion.
When wildlife officers make decisions that deprive the public of their wildlife heritage, it is crucial that they also provide clear descriptions of the situation.
Pahrump Lion Carried Away
The Nye County Sheriff should be applauded (see below, what you can do) for posting a Press Release on their Facebook page, making information available to the public, and for responding to public questions. It took courage to do so, especially given that local law enforcement were not responsible for the decision to kill the lion.

At the time of this reporting, could find no other information on the incident, from NDOW or the press.

In California, the Mountain Lion Foundation passed a law to protect lions from being killed just because bullets are cheaper than tranquilizers. Now, unless a California lion is actually behaving aggressively and people are in imminent danger, the lion cannot be killed. Utah is successfully relocating lions, even in highly populated areas, as are many other states.

The Nye County Sheriff's Office noted that this time of year it is common for mountain lions, coyotes and bobcats to migrate into the Pahrump Valley in search of food due to winter conditions in the mountains. We hope that all of the agencies in the area will come up with better plans to respond to these "common occurrences".

But we need to encourage agencies to act more effectively and to provide greater information to people who live nearby.

Our Resolve



The Mountain Lion Foundation is working closely with the Nevada Wildlife Alliance to change state policies regarding hunting, trapping, "predator management" and, yes, what to do when a lion mistakenly wanders into town.

We are sending a letter to thank the Nye County Sheriff for contacting NDOW, for making such valuable information available to the public and for responding to public questions and outrage.

MLF Staff attended a presentation in Reno on Tuesday to learn more about the specific scientific research that details how mountain lions are surviving in Nevada and how species conservation can be improved in the state.

Our Associate Director will attend public meetings on January 28, 29, and 30th in Las Vegas to urge NDOW, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and other policy-makers to better protect Nevada's mountain lions.

What YOU Can Do



We need members and volunteers to help make policy changes. Please, wherever you live, join the Mountain Lion Foundation.

But especially, if you live in Nevada, help us to build our membership numbers in the state so that our voices will have greater credibility when we speak out for lions.

If you only know us by email or social media, join with a donation however small or large so that we can count your voice by where you live, and not only by a tag on the web.

And please go to the Facebook Page of the Nye County Sheriff, and however outraged you are at what occurred, thank the Sheriff for their courage in reporting on the incident to the public.

Or, write to thank the Sheriff, Sharon Wehrly, at:

South Area Command
Sheriff's Office Headquarters
1520 E. Basin Road
Pahrump, NV 89060

EMAIL: sheriff@co.nye.nv.us (Article #1677) To read the actual news story click here...

LAUGHABLY LOW PENALTIES IN MONTANA LION CRIMES (1/24/2016)

Roy and Stanley Hankins - two hired houndsmen in Montana - have been sentenced for illegally killing mountain lions in 2012. Both men received only $1000 fines, suspended jail time, and loss of hunting privileges for two years.



The fact that these were only misdemeanor counts and that hunting privileges were only denied for the minimum 24 months is outrageous. Even more shocking is that Roy Hankins was found guilty of trafficking in the unlawfully obtained body parts of a protected species as far back as 1982. That conviction was upheld before the Montana Supreme Court.

In this latest indictment, Roy R. Hankins of Townsend and Stanley A. Hankins of Fort Benton were convicted of outfitting without a license, failure to obtain landowner permission, and unlawful possession of a game animal.


Montana penalties for a person convicted of outfitting without a license is a fine not to exceed $1000 or imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or both, forfeiture of licenses for any period set by the court, and reimbursement of fees. For unlawful possession of a game animal, the fine is again not more than $1000, 6 months of detention, and at least a two year forfeiture of licenses.

With prices for a mountain lion hunt in Montana in the $4500-$6500 range, thousand dollar fines are just a slap on the wrist, and after the two year suspension, there is tremendous motivation for houndsmen to carry on with little regard for the law.

The photos of hunted lions in this story
represent three of the mountain lions killed
related to the indictments of the Hankinses and
LeMonte Schnur, and were found on Facebook.


Although houndsmen often testify that they cannot be held accountable for a few bad apples, the evidence is that they are remarkably tolerant. Here are some testimonials about Roy Hankins from other Montana houndsmen:


"Roy is quite a character and has caught more lions than most guys will ever dream of. A lot of guys don't like him but you can't deny the fact that he is a cat catching son of a gun. I get a kick out of him and I'm glad that I had the chance to know him. There's never a dull moment with Roy and you won't find many guys that enjoy life as much as he does. I'm sure there are guys in parts of the state with better lion populations that catch a lot of cats but he catches a pile of cats in a moderate population area. Roy is old school and a good lion is a dead lion to him but that doesn't change the fact that he is a damn successful hunter. I'd love to see a book on the illustrious life of Roy Hankins, it would be an entertaining read."


"I beleive the question was who is the best lion hunter. Not who is the best houndsman. Roy doesnt own dogs for companions or buddies he owns hounds for killing cats. Roy may be a lot of things people dont agree with but the one thing you cant take away from the man is that he has probably put up more cats than most five men combined. As far as being a houndsman he probably does a lot of things most people wouldnt agree with including myself. But like an old time lion hunter told me when I first started Roy has shot better dogs than you or I will ever own. So in short I would have to say whether you agree with him or not we all could probably learn a few things from Roy including training hounds."


Forum of Montana Big Game Houndsmen, Tuesday, January 19, 2010.
Spelling and grammatical errors are original.


Outfitter LaMonte Schnur Still to be Sentenced


In the 2012 incident, the Hankinses had been hired by LaMonte Schnur, owner of Monte's Guiding and Mountain Outfitting in Townsend, who was investigated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks after receiving reports that at least four of his guided mountain lion hunts in 2012 were conducted on unauthorized lands. The lions were killed on private properties, state, or federal lands where the hunting groups were not permitted.

The hunters themselves who paid for the guided mountain lion hunts, and pictured here with the lions they killed, James Ruhl, William Heenan, William Rogers and Robert Griffin, were not charged.

Schnur voluntarily surrendered his outfitting license in an agreement with the Montana Board of Outfitters, and is ineligible from reapplying. Schnur also agreed to refund a total of $4,500 to two of the hunters and provide five free days of hunting to another, pay a $1,000 administration fee and update the board monthly on hunting activities during the 2015 season. Schnur is permanently ineligible from reapplying for an outfitting or guide license under the terms of the order.

As far as MLF is able to determine, Schnur is still able to hunt lions in Montana and elsewhere as an individual, and was able to continue to act as an outfitter up until December 31, 2015.

The Montana Attorney General's Office has filed an 18-count indictment against Schnur for the illegal hunts.

This is not the first time LaMonte Schnur has been convicted of violating game laws. In 2005 he pled guilty to five counts related to outfitting on national forest land in Montana without a permit. Under the plea agreement, in 2006 a federal judge sentenced him to two years of probation and a $10,000 fine.

Also in 2006, a Wyoming federal court found Schnur guilty of commercial backcountry trail use without a permit. He received a two-year license probation, was banned from entering Yellowstone National Park for two years and paid $3,510 in fines.

2006, hunters themselves remarked on the lack of meaningful repercussions to Schnur in statewide online hunting forums. One hunter said, "The thing thats going to really be interesting to see is how the guides and outfitters association acts on this issue. I bet they dont revoke his outfitting license. A 10k slap on the hand for 59K in profits. Unbelievable."

In 2006, the Montana Board of Outfitters placed his license on probation for three years, fined him $780 and ordered him to complete a remedial outfitter education program.

In 2015, in a letter to the Montana Board of Outfitters, Schnur commented this has been the most stressful time in his life. His website, www.montesguiding.com, notes that he "retired" at the end of 2015 and is working on transferring the business so that guided hunts can continue.

"We will continue to offer our spring and summer services of varmint shooting, wildlife watching/photography, and horseback trips/cattle drives through Montana Horse Country Adventures. We are currently working out the details of the transfer of the hunting business. We plan to have everything completed in time for you to book your 2016 hunt with the new management."

Monte's Outfitting is still listed with the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.

Schnur is due back in court in January 2016.

Follow the Money


Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks admits that hunters cross the line. In an article titled For Sale: Montana's Public Wildlife they note that "over the last 20 years, greed has driven a new breed of poachers to line their wallets with Montana's wildlife. And we're seeing record-book heads that can sell for $30,000 to $40,000 or even more."

"With that kind of money at stake, a growing number of people are willing to do whatever it takes to put large racks in the hands of wealthy clients. What we're seeing is the intersection of big antlers with big egos. There's a growing interest across the county in having a big trophy on the wall - no matter how it's taken - and that's what's driving a lot of the poaching in Montana."

Mountain Lion Foundation Takes Action


Poaching is a difficult crime to investigate and cases rarely make it to court. To make matters worse, penalties are not sufficient to discourage criminals from poaching again. When an outfitter can make $5,000 from guiding just one hunt, the threat of facing a $10,000 fine is not much of a deterrent, as this could easily be made in one weekend.

We have written letters to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department, applauding the work of their wardens, including former warden Andrew Martin in this case.

And we have written to the Montana Attorney General's Office thanking them for investigating and prosecuting LaMonte Schnur, as well as Roy and Stanley Hankins. We appreciate the time they have put into this case and hope the judge will issue the maximum sentence against Schnur, given his long record of wildlife crime.

As reported by the Independent Record, FWP Enforcement Chief Jim Kropp said in an email that "it is disheartening, as I have known and worked with the Schnurs for a number of years, it's unfortunate these alleged acts occur and are attributed to a licensed professional.

"One of the main purposes of having a dedicated Fish & Wildlife Prosecutor at the Attorney General's office is to focus on the prosecution of large scale and heinous wildlife crimes," Kropp continued. "As citizens of Montana we simply won't tolerate trophy game animals being stolen from Montanaís landscape for the purposes of personal gain."

What YOU Can Do: Hold Montana to it's promise:


Write letters to the Montana Attorney Seneral and to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department involved in this case to thank them for prosecuting wildlife crimes. Wildlife is a valuable resource and violators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Office of the Attorney General
Justice Building, Third Floor
215 North Sanders
P.O. Box 201401
Helena, MT 59620-1401
Phone: (406) 444-2026
E-mail: contactdoj@mt.gov

Director
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
1420 East Sixth Avenue
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701
Phone: (406) 444-2535
Fax: (406) 444-4952
E-mail: fwpgen@mt.gov

But encourage Montana's and your state's governor and legislators to increase fines and jail time for those convicted. Your voice can make a difference.

Office of the Governor
PO Box 200801
Helena MT 59620-0801
Phone: 406-444-3111
Toll Free: 855-318-1330
Fax: 406-444-5529
Email: on web from Contact Montana's Governor

Thanks for helping to Save America's Lion!






(Article #1675) To read the actual news story click here...

MLF Attends Rangeland Summit (1/22/2016)
Staff and volunteers attended the California Rangeland Summit to network with many of the most committed ranchers and conservationists in the state.

The day-long meeting dealt specifically with wildfire and rangeland management, and was focused on mediating the impacts of wildfires like those experienced in California in 2015 to rangelands dedicated to wildlife, conservation and ranching.

Discussing nonlethal methods with rangeland managers.The summit addressed challenges and opportunities to improve rangeland management, to reduce the scope and severity of catastrophic wildfire and to reduce the impacts of wildfire to ranch sustainability and conservation interests.

Mountain Lion Foundation attended in order to learn more about the difficulties ranchers face in conserving wildlife, especially when both ecosystems and economic systems are stressed by catastrophic events. Through better understanding, we hope to find innovative solutions to traditionally difficult problems.

MLF also provided ideas for non-lethal methods for dealing with mountain lion conflicts, and set future meetings with landowners, grazing operators, agencies and advocacy groups.

Photo of MLF Volunteer Fauna Tomlinson with the Foxlight.

In particular Mountain Lion Foundation volunteer Fauna Tomlinson presented information about Foxlight, a new frightening device that is showing great promise in keeping wild animals away from domestic livestock.

You can learn more about Foxlight by viewing the YouTube video that describes how it's been used in Australia to protect sheep from foxes. A plastic container that sits atop a fencepost flashes 9 LED's in patterns to scare away predators. There are two versions, one solar and one battery powered.

Many other methods -- from penning, to shed birthing, to guard animals -- were also discussed.

The summit was co-sponsored by the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition and University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources. (Article #1674) To read the actual news story click here...

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

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

Mountain Lion leaping away from truck during relocation.





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

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

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

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

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

Mountain Lion in truck while being relocated.

Our Resolve


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

What YOU Can Do


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

DWRcomment@utah.gov

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

Photos Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The given reasons? Senator Schilz, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, commented that NGPC needs to be able to use hunting as a tool to control wildlife. Other members said that if the legislature banned the hunting of mountain lions, they may be pressured to outlaw the hunting of other species in the future.

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

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

Our Resolve



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

What YOU Can Do



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

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

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

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





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

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

photo copyright Jon Nelson 2015



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lion looking up.

Our Resolve:
An Action Alert This Week



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

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


What YOU Can Do



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

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

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

YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OPINION KNOWN TODAY BY LEAVING COMMENTS ON LEGISCAN and SHARING this article on Facebook.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mountainlion.org/portalprotectstaysafe.asp

Good luck and safe travels from the Mountain Lion Foundation.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo copyright Jon Nelson 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Our Resolve


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

What YOU Can Do


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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It was pretty neat," Lee said.

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

Home advantage


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public input


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, Sandy's life was cut short.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily, it didn't matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Let's work it," he said.

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

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

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

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

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

The second dart fully dispensed the drug.

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

A young mother


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of lion in snowy pine tree.

Wolves and hunting


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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