Fighting to stop trophy hunting of lions in the West

By on November 8, 2017 with 20 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Trophy hunting organizations and state fish and wildlife agencies are in cahoots in the Southwest in executing ruthless mountain lion killing programs, typically involving radio telemetry equipment, packs of hounds, and rifles and bows they use to shoot lions they’ve driven into trees to kill at point-blank range. The trophy hunters are motivated by bragging rights and taxidermy (they are head hunters, and don’t eat the lions). And the states, in addition to catering to that small subset of hunters and enabling their unsporting methods of killing, view the lions as competitors with human hunters for deer and elk. In their economic calculus, every deer or elk lost to a lion is one less hunting license fee paid to the states, to paraphrase an observation from the esteemed outdoor writer Ted Williams.

But The HSUS and other wildlife protection groups are fighting back, and taking a stand for lions—in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Last week, after legal maneuvers by WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Environmental Law Center, state and federal authorities temporarily halted a massive mountain lion “control” program in Colorado ostensibly designed to inflate mule deer populations, pending further environmental review.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife had entered into an agreement with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to kill hundreds of mountain lions and dozens of black bears on two study sites to determine if these massive predator-control projects could revive the Centennial State’s flagging mule deer population.

These sorts of programs are a fool’s errand. Across the Western U.S., mule deer struggle because of habitat destruction and corridor loss. In Colorado, this has been exacerbated by rampant oil and gas drilling in western Colorado with its spider web of roads and drill pads that have degraded tremendous amounts of former mule deer habitat and migration routes.

And in New Mexico, a federal judge recently rejected the State’s second attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by The HSUS and Animal Protection of New Mexico challenging the state’s Department of Game and Fish’s 2016 decision to open a cougar trapping season on public lands—for the first time in almost 50 years. Even though hounding is bad enough, it’s all the more outrageous to allow trapping and snaring programs for lions, since the lions suffer in the traps and the traps catch whatever creature is unlucky enough to trigger the device.

The Commission’s 2016 Cougar Rule radically expands cougar trapping on more than nine million acres of public trust land, including key Mexican wolf habitat, as well as expanding opportunities for trapping on private land. The risk of a cougar trap injuring or killing a Mexican wolf is high due to the similarity in size and habitat preference between the species.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, we are in full battle mode, as we conduct the signature-gathering campaign to qualify a ballot measure to halt any trophy hunting of lions in the state. The measure would also forbid trophy hunting of bobcats, jaguars, ocelots, and lynx, in a state with the richest diversity of wild cat species in the United States.

Despite Western states’ claim of using science, their arguments amount to no more than fake news and faux science. When trophy hunters kill an adult male lion, his females and kittens are susceptible to mortality from incoming males, as many other studies from Utah, Montana, and Washington have shown. Killing one male lion results in the death of numerous other lions, particularly dependent kittens, who are cannibalized by incoming males. And if a trophy hunter kills an adult female, any kittens under 12 months of age will likely die from starvation, predation, or exposure.

Two summers ago, Americans reacted with outrage in seeing an American trophy hunter grinning over an African lion he killed in Zimbabwe. He conducted that hunt for no other reasons than bragging rights and the trophy. The people who kill mountain lions here in the Southwest are motivated by the same purposes.

Lions strengthen population of deer and elk. They are needed apex predators in intact ecosystems. The states have no idea how many lions they have, and their programs are a relic of antiquated attitudes towards predators.

It’s one thing to kill animals for meat. It’s another to do it just for the heads. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it’s the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.

P.S. Using cutting-edge, remote-camera technologies, Panthera discovered that mountain lions are far more social than biologists ever realized—despite 60 years’ research. Females share their kills with other females and their kittens and even with the adult territorial male. In return, the adult males protect the females and all of his kittens from immigrating males. If left undisturbed, mountain lions have a stable social society where reciprocity between individuals is shared. A revolutionary finding.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Fighting to stop trophy hunting of lions in the West – Susan Dorling | November 9, 2017
  1. NativeGirl says:

    Why do you insist on spreading the lie that lions are “trophy” hunted in Arizona and that the initiative will prevent the “trophy” hunting of canada lynx, jaguars and ocelots?

    It’s extremely disingenuous.
    If you weren’t using this silly rhetoric to pass laws it would be laughable but as it is it’s just a big fat disgusting lie designed to drum up knee jerk followers that never read the fine print.
    How classy and upstanding.

    Mountain lions are classified as a ‘big game’ animal in Arizona.
    Which means just like with deer and elk the entire carcass must be utilized.
    You can’t just take the head and hide, that’s already illegal.
    But you already know that…

    You also already know that jaguars and ocelots are already federally protected and that lynx do not occur here but if they did magically appear (in habitat not really suitable for the species) they would be granted state and federal protection here as well.

    I understand you do not approve of or condone any type of hunting from your fairy tale trophy hunts to native subsistence hunting but stop lying to people to try and get your legislation passed.

    • David Wend says:

      Frankly, I know of no good reason why a mountain lion should be killed for food or trophies. What organization has classified mountain lions are “big game” animals? Do you think this such a designation actually prevents mountain lions from being killed for trophies? It may be illegal but I am sure that it happens.

      I find your comments highly rude. If you have something to say you should not insult the author. It certainly does diminsh what you are saying.

    • fred domer says:

      NativeGirl expects us to believe that a person who kills a mountain lion and mounts its head on a wall is not a trophy hunter. This is totally absurd

  2. C. Weideman says:

    Science is real, regardless if you believe it or not. Lynx are not native to Arizona, and ocelots and jaguars are protected endangered cats. Trap hunting is not legal in Arizona. This “article” is your personal opinion and agenda, full of “faux” facts to encourage an emotional response from people who are not given all the information needed to make an educated decision. Also, everyone I know that has hunted a mountain lion reports that it is their favorite meat, because they are not just trophies.

  3. Cindy tobias says:

    What in the hl happened to us kill tbis kill that..these animals just want to live in peace as we do..let their lives and we can live ours..would u like if they came in town and killed our families..NO U WOULDNT.. it has to stop or nothing will be on this earth to thrive..not even us.

  4. Angela Grammatico says:

    Protect these wild animals the mountain lions and all the cats out West

  5. Angela Grammatico says:

    Keep the wild cats out West protected the mountain lions etc…

  6. denis goulet says:

    animal lover

  7. Fran Leard says:

    I wish these sick trigger happy cowards would let our animals live in peace as God intended. How is this a sport when the idiots use big guns against innocent animals? Laws need to be implemented to stop this disgrace.

  8. Margaret Brindle says:

    So happy that at last someone is willing to help these INDIGENOUS creatures. They are so beautiful and have used and abused by IMMIGRANTS who only think of themselves. I wish you and the Mountain Lions success.

  9. James H. Mundy IV says:

    Go for it…….we’re behind you.

  10. Ray says:

    HSUS you are off your rocker.
    These animals need to be.managed just like any other big game animal. Good hell pull your head out

    • S. Schroeder says:

      These animals DO NOT need to be “managed”. Mountain lion numbers are in decline all over the U.S. Mother Nature does a fine job of taking care of her own. Mountain lions are a very intregal and important part of a healthy eco-system. Hunters GO HOME! I hope these American big cats are protected from those who like to kill. Hounding and trapping should be ILLEGAL. Period.

    • save africa says:

      humans are the only species that need to be managed. we are the far most overpopulated

  11. Candace Colby says:

    Thanks to HSUS for your work on preventing these atrocities. It is never justified to kill apex predators – they are the key to healthy prey species. California banned mountain lion hunting many years ago and with that decision also set aside land for habitat and it’s time for other western states to do the same. Animals face so many challenges from climate change and habitat loss that humans should certainly not add to that burden by useless killing.

    • dave says:

      If the HSUS really cares about these lions, they should look into the process of speciation. without the constant regulation of these beautiful creature’s we may loose them.

  12. Rational Observer says:

    Its awesome to see emotion trumping reason. Our mountain lion population in Arizona is not in trouble, decline or even at risk. Eliminating the only predator that manages them will hurt our elk, and deer populations. In California the effect on the deer herd and human interaction with lions has increased significantly. Its sad to see that this might go to a voting booth when we have wildlife biologists and scientist who actually track and manage the game efficiently.

    Sad times.

  13. margarita clayton says:

    The whole world is killing happy; we are all linked in this world to make it survive; one cannot do w/out the other; people do not respect those they think are inferior to them; they do not care for the most vulnerable!! Their heads are ot right; their thrill is in killing, like the wild west cowboy; same with businesses that implement animals for profit; they miserably treat them; callous people.

  14. Valerie says:

    Thank you Humane Society for protecting these beautiful cats from ‘trophy’ hunts. It’s repulsive and unethical that there would be a reward for ending the life of any of these cats.

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