Trophy hunting mountain lions can hurt ecosystems, increase conflict

By on March 8, 2019 with 10 Comments

Over the last three decades, 80,000 mountain lions have been killed for trophies, most of them from the western and midwestern United States. This unbridled and ongoing assault, perpetrated by trophy hunters and predator-control agents and enabled by state and federal legislators, doesn’t just hurt one of America’s most iconic carnivores, although that’s bad enough. It also has the potential to negatively influence ecosystems in these states and can lead to increased human-animal conflict, as it likely did in Colorado, where a jogger was recently attacked by a mountain lion.

The mountain lion in the encounter was later discovered to be no more than three to four months old, and malnourished, with no mother in sight. While we don’t know what happened to the mother, it is not difficult to hazard a guess, given the scale at which trophy hunters and others kill these animals. States and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, a program whose agents kill millions of wild animals a year at taxpayer expense, also kill mountain lions — allegedly to protect livestock – a myth we’ve debunked in a new report that shows that the USDA highly exaggerates the number of livestock deaths due to mountain lions.

Colorado, which did a long-term study of the effects of trophy hunting on a mountain lion population a few years back, chose to ignore its own findings to permit trophy hunters to kill up to 28 percent of the population – a significantly higher figure than what biologists found to be sustainable.

This endless cycle of killing creates many dangers and uncertainties for young kittens who depend on their mothers for up to two years. Had a mother been present or nearby in the recent incident, a mountain lion kitten would likely not have wandered off by himself to find food, or threatened a human being. When mothers are killed, the kittens can also either become targets of trophy hunters, or they can be killed by other male mountain lions looking to move into the territory. Robert Wielgus, a mountain lion biologist, says that when left alone, large, territorial, adult males protect both their females and kittens within their territory. But when these large males are killed, “at least three young males come to his funeral,” hoping to take over the resident adult male’s vacant territory so they can father their own kittens.

Because these young male lions are often unskilled hunters, they are also more prone to create conflicts in human communities, including by killing livestock.

Despite this, some states not only continue to allow hunting mountain lions, but one is taking things a step further by adding a dangerous practice into the mix: hounding. In Oregon, lawmakers have introduced a raft of bills to allow the trophy hunting of mountain lions by chasing the animals down with radio-collared dogs — a practice that Oregonians earlier voted to ban through a ballot initiative. Not only does this result in a cruel death for the mountain lion, but the dogs too can get injured and die. Oregon allows incredibly high levels of trophy hunting, with rates twice as high as what experts recommend, and the state has already seen an increase in conflicts with mountain lions in human communities.

Mountain lions serve critical ecological roles and increase the biodiversity in their natural habitats. They reduce deadly deer-vehicle collisions and help maintain the health and viability of prey species by removing sick individuals and by reducing the spread of deadly diseases such as chronic wasting disease, an epidemic plaguing deer and elk herds throughout the country.

Research indicates that the majority of Americans hold positive attitudes toward mountain lions, and a variety of studies suggest that Americans oppose the trophy hunting of America’s big cats. Killing mountain lions benefits no one other than a handful of trophy hunters looking to display body parts in their living rooms. States like Oregon and Colorado should make policies that respect the wishes of their citizens to protect rather than persecute mountain lions. If they do, they are more likely to see flourishing populations of lions who keep the ecosystems in their states healthy and who are less likely to cause conflicts with humans.

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

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10 Comments

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  1. Fran Leard says:

    These cowards need to let our wildlife live and roam free. This madness and greed must be stopped.

    • Bob says:

      LOL,

      Where are they to roam free, there are houses and communities everywhere. Roam Free to attack people? Colorado a runner was attacked by a mountain lion a month ago.

      • Deborah Jones says:

        A runner killed a 3-4 month old KITTEN that was alone and starving because the mother was killed. Did you read the article? People created the problem here. The article also talks about why conflicts are increased by trophy hunting. You really must not have read the article.

      • Lover of animals says:

        Crazy Americans and their ridiculous gun laws,eighty thousand killed in the last three decades,hang your heads in shame America.

  2. Suraiya Sewraj says:

    Humans have evolved into ugly beings. Ban hunting and let all life forms live as per the laws of nature. Stop cruelty and disturbing the balance of life. Stop the violence and killing, just STOP

  3. Marian Prato says:

    This just demonstrates how brutal man has become towards our wildlife. In this case the mountain lion but there are so many other animals being killed needlessly. Instead of being glorified these killings need to be prosecuted and protections be put in place by our lawmakers. I hope the public pays attention on election days as to which lawmakers allow these killings by doing nothing to stop them. I am just horrified how brutal man has become towards wildlife and also domestic animals. There needs to be strict consequences!

  4. Linda Winter says:

    Trophy hunting of mountain lions is clearly a cruel and unnecessary “sport” that only increases mountain lion and human conflicts. Luckily, the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, an affiliate of the HSUS, has created dozens of permanent sanctuaries across the west where mountain lions can live out their lives and never be hunted or trapped. In its 25-year history, the Trust has created 116 permanent wildlife sanctuaries comprising over 20,000 acres in 32 states and Canada. To learn more about our life-saving work, visit http://www.wildlifelandtrust.org.

  5. fred domer says:

    State game agencies care only about pleasing hunters, nothing else. Even a modest
    proposal to push back the start of the mountain lion hunting season is rejected,
    A mother lion does not travel with her cubs during the first few months after birth, thus a hunter cannot know if she has cubs, so he kills her and the cubs starve. State game agencies don’t give a damn as long as the trophy hunters are happy.

    • Bethany Murphy says:

      I wish more undercover investigations were done with trophy hunting organizations and their corrupt influence on govt agencies. These are truly sick individuals who justify killing animals for sport using any and all bs rationale. They are only getting stronger and plan to start media campaigns to work against anti-trophy hunters.

      • Susan Siefert says:

        I have a feeling what would be revealed from these investigations would look a lot like the college scandals involving many wealthy individuals.

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