Trophy hunting mountain lions can hurt ecosystems, increase conflict

By on March 8, 2019 with 28 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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  1. Fran Leard says:

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

    • Bob says:


      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.

        • Nilene Parry says:

          People just don’t get it. They don’t realize that the few people attacked is proving that there are thousands of people are never attacked. When mankind thinks he can screw with nature and “fix” the problem he just compounds it.

      • 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.

      • Monique Williams says:

        You are ignorant. The incidence of attacks of people are rare, as the article states they are needed for the ecosystem to function and thrive

    • Frank Olguin says:

      I shot a big Tom and I loved it. We used dogs so that we wouldn’t kill females. Theres always another tom waiting in the wings anyhow. It nature to try and take over territory and the females. I doubt theres been 80000 killed anyway

  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

  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.

  6. Aldo Roosevelt says:

    I absolutely love mountain lions and think they are very majestic animals. However, I don’t see how letting the population grow unchecked will reduce human conflicts? From everything I’ve read the mountain lion that attacked the runner was a juvenile male. Young, yes. Kitten, no. This mountain lion was at the appropriate age to leave his mother and hunt on his own. It’s a HUGE stretch to call him a kitten.

    I understand the point of how killing a mature mountain lion male will lead to other younger males trying to claim his territory. However, with the foot print human beings have developed there simply isn’t enough room for mountain lions to grow unchecked. Where were these younger males before the mature male was killed? These younger males are likely to get in trouble somewhere regardless of the mature male being killed.

    Again I love mountain lions and don’t want to see them hurt, however, I believe we have to use some common sense here, and not rely on our emotions when it comes to our furry friends. More taxpayer money will go to “mountain lion control” if we don’t allow the management of these animals. You could have some hunter pay to hunt these animals, or you could use tax payer money to pay wildlife officials to control the population. Something I didn’t know until recently, apparently hunters eat mountain lion. This is a way to provide healthy, organic meat for their families. If the wildlife official has to shoot a mountain lion, then the organic meat will go to waste. I think the real danger here is encroaching on mountain lion’s habitat.

    • Shanon Thomas says:

      I’m gonna bet you’re a trophy hunter troll. Always finding a way to justify killing.

    • Jeff adams says:

      Also you seen to have hit the nail or mountain lion on the head! Common sense is what a lot of the people who are in charge of making laws and regulations lack! It’s a fact that the more you have if an animal the more conflicts between man and beast there will be. It is caused by the fact that we live in the habitat that they used to live in. So everyone who wants to end the control of wildlife populations by hunting or by state officials is going to have to move out of thier habitat! Let the lawmakers make some laws to where they can tell the bunny and tree huggers where they can and cannot build a house or park a mobile home because it will upset the squirrel population! Or hears a thought and this will solve the problem! Start controlling the human population! First off let the ones who are so passionate about letting the animals live volunteer to be controlled. Then next it can be the people who live out in the forrests and plains and those with those mountain top houses be next! They are encroching more than the rest of us! See where this is going? You can bet the people will quieten down then. When you don’t live in these places or try to make a living raising live stock in these places and it’s not going to be you that is sacrificing anything your voice is loud, but when it cost you your voice in favor of animal rights goes quiet! The fact is we have populated to the point that we have to move farther and farther into the wild. Right now that’s our only option. Unless we agree to that other one! Common sense! Use it if you have it! If you don’t! Be a volunteer!

    • Frank Olguin says:

      I agree, I ate the one I shot and paid dearly to hunt it and have a full body mount done. There were scratches on his face were he was jousting with other cats that I would assume that were trying to take over his territory

  7. Margui says:

    Young lions? There are no lions in the Americas. The correct name for these animals is Puma.
    It’s time to give these animals their habitat back. People are invading their territories and they need to be protected, not hunted. Wildlife is important for this planet survival.

  8. Nikki says:

    Its just hurt to hear… trophy hunt made nothing. It must stop allowing all hunting. Evil hunters have no control in those days. They go whole world to kill bigger preditor or animals just prize for own ego. Its sickness that want beat up weak animals using diffsrences to kill human if he can’t talk.

  9. dave mayo says:

    So few are left and so many are poached. Tired of hearing bout the jackass in colarado and ive heard he was a hunter and hed been trackin it and when he finally saw it he was get it one way or other

  10. Chilton Gregory says:

    If those “people” who boost their sick egos by killing defenseless creatures think they’re so hot, let them try bringing their victims back to life.

  11. Joe West says:

    Here in California the lion population o
    Has decimated the deer population. And the female lions kill all smaller preditors to protect their kittens. Leading to a flourishing rodent po pl Clayton which causes rutal folks to rot
    Text their vehicles with poison. Which kills more preditors..
    I live in the woods an uncontroled lion population is not a good thing.
    U like african lions they are of course nocturnal. So the starving mountain lions people do not get to see. But it is happen ing.

  12. Jubel says:

    The article gave zero factual evidence that the kitten’s mother had been killed. That statement was speculation. Basically the author is pulling on your heart strings in order for you to share their opinion on the topic.

    Wildlife management isn’t an easy task. They are a government organizations that acts as liaison between the human population & the wildlife population. The downfall of either is not in their best interest. They have biologists who have put more hours of research into each species of animal they manage, than you could imagined. There will be conflict between animals and humans, to dream otherwise is naive. Minimizing the conflict is wildlife management. To those of you that say just let the population self regulate, you’re part of the reason there are 8 billion people and growing on a planet with limited resources. It’s the dismal science.

  13. Scott t arnold says:

    Man is and has been moving into wildlife areas. A cougar is a predator period! This is not a Disney movie, this is nature. Move to where wildlife is you will have interactions some not good outcomes.Hunting reduces numbers period.
    Wildlife management is just that. Don’t build, live and jog where cougars hunt!

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