Recently a small town newspaper in Mendocino County (California) published a personal rant by their "sports columnist" against the citizen-placed ballot initiative, Proposition 117, which voters passed twenty years ago this month.
In his article the author, who passes himself off as "someone in the know," misstates just about everything there is to know about mountain lions in general, and about California's experience with mountain lions in particular.
Every point he makes, (and there are several) is calculated not to apprise the public, but to strike fear in the uninformed and generate opposition to the 20-year old ban on hunting mountain lions in California for fun.
According to this so-called "expert," up to 20,000 mountain lions are romping around the state; each one killing dozens of animals at a time for the fun of it, and passing those diabolical lessons on to their offspring. Of course,according to him there are also monthly attacks against humans which, because the California Department of Fish and Game is in denial, go unreported and obviously the Mountain Lion Foundation is only using Proposition 117 as some kind of "get rich quick" scheme.
While I like to think the best of everyone, and I do believe that every issue can have several perspectives, the malice and forethought that went into writing that particular article goes far beyond differing opinions or pardonable mistakes. The author cleverly hedges his accusations with qualifier phrases like "some would say, or "most," without actually naming sources or citing references.
What's more, he isn't the first to use fear tactics in an effort to generate support to over turn the ban on killing California's mountain lions for sport. Over the past few years, several special interest hunting groups--usually based in small out of the way rural communities--have spouted the same mantras in their local papers or told how their very lives are threatened because "gullible" city dwellers (who obviously outnumber them at the polls) have been misled, and they are the only ones who can see the threat for what it is.
As for the author's claim to being an "avid sportsman and conservationist;" I would hope that every American loved the natural resources of this country and wants to protect them. Unfortunately special interest hunting groups have started using the phrase "conservationist" as some sort of wilderness street creds, and as a way to define themselves to the unaware public as caring, knowledgeable experts, who know all about animals because they spend so much time hunting them. Some even go so far as to claim the extra title of "true" or "first" to denigrate non-hunting conservationists.
Whether the want-a-be lion hunters like it or not, Proposition 117 was not only passed by a majority of the voters twenty years ago, it was also upheld six years later when the Safari Club backed initiative, Proposition 197, was rejected by an even greater margin. It is time for them to accept the fact that most Californians love mountain lions and refuse to be scared of them just because some hunter says they should.
For the record:
Fact: According to cougar expert, Dr. Maurice Hornocker, "...mountain lions will never overrun the countryside. These animals are very territorial and limit their own numbers." A cougar leads a very solitary life, having little contact with others unless mating or mothering. The home range of a single, lone adult often spans 100 square miles. As a function of their territorial needs, social stability, and mutual avoidance, cougar populations tend to be widely dispersed and self-regulating which means that their numbers remain relatively constant.
Fact: The estimate of 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions residing in California is based on complex population models which take into consideration the amount of available habitat as well as data derived from radio-collared scientific studies which tracks the movement and behavior of lions.
Fact: According to Dr. Rick Hopkins, who has done extensive studies of cougars in California, trophy hunting can not keep Californians safe from mountain lions. As far as he is concerned, "a dead cougar cannot and does not teach the living lions to fear man." Trophy hunting of mountain lions could in fact place more Californians at risk.
Fact: In addition to banning the trophy hunting of mountain lions, Proposition 117 directs the California State legislature to allocate a minimum of $30 million annually for thirty years towards the acquisition of critical habitat for all of the state's wildlife. Since the Mountain Lion Foundation is not in the land acquisition business, none of these funds benefit our organization.
Fact: To date, Proposition 117 has helped acquire and protect over 2 million acres of critical habitat. Below is a breakdown of those acquisitions:
305,183 acres for the protection of mountain lion and deer habitat.
337,744 acres for the protection of special status species and significant habitat areas.
267,261 acres for protection and restoration of wetlands habitat.
1,170,649 acres for protection and restoration of fisheries and riparian habitat.
143,221 acres of corridors, trails, and for interpretive programs.
2,224,058 Total Acres Protected