California, which took the pioneering move of banning mountain lion trophy hunting three decades ago, is still standing strong for these iconic animals. This week, California lawmakers passed groundbreaking legislation to ban the use of certain rodenticides that have been held responsible for the illness and death of countless wild animals, including mountain lions, bobcats and raptors.
The good news came just as California reported a baby boom in its mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains region—a population that has been one of the smallest and most vulnerable in the state. According to National Park Service biologists, 13 mountain lion kittens were born just this summer to five females in the Santa Monica Mountains. This is the largest number of kittens born to the population documented as part of an 18-year study on the region’s mountain lions.
However, biologists have also documented large numbers of animals dying of consuming rodenticides, including six mountain lions wearing GPS tracking collars who have died in the Santa Monica Mountains since research began in that area. Fortunately, Assemblymember Richard Bloom authored and introduced the bill to ban rodenticides. The bill, supported by the Humane Society of the United States, gained widespread and diverse support and sailed through the state assembly and Senate. It now awaits the governor’s signature.
California lions still face other threats, like habitat loss, which has led to their populations dropping dangerously low in certain regions of the state, and we are supporting an effort to garner protections for mountain lions in the Southern and Central Coast regions of California under the California Endangered Species Act.
But even as California policymakers have put their best foot forward for mountain lions, that has not been the case in several other states lucky enough to still have mountain lions. Throughout the majority of their range in the United States, not only do we not see any effort to protect lions, but many officials are embracing policies that are downright cruel.
Last week, the Utah Division of Wildlife passed sweeping regulations that would, in effect, allow trophy hunters to kill unlimited numbers of these wild cats throughout most of the state. The agency is trying to boost prey populations, like mule deer, to please hunters, and is not taking into consideration the fact that there is widespread public opposition to trophy hunting of mountain lions in the state.
In Colorado, the state wildlife commission just voted to allow the trophy hunting of mountain lions in select areas with the use of electronic calls, simply because of increased sightings. These “e-calls” will make trophy hunting of lions easier, violating the commission’s own fair chase hunting policy by providing hunters with an unfair advantage over lions. They also prevent a hunter from determining the sex of a lion, putting female lions at risk, as well as their kittens who will subsequently die from starvation or predation when their mothers are killed. The commission is expected to take a final vote on the use of e-calls during their January 2021 meeting.
In Washington, the Klickitat County Sheriff has taken the cruelty to a new level, by deputizing a posse of houndsmen to chase down and kill mountain lions simply for being seen or heard in the county. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is turning a blind eye to these rogue actions. Not only is such intense lethal management unnecessary, but a decade of research conducted in Washington has shown that this approach can actually worsen conflicts and does not, in fact, help the community.
America’s lions do not deserve to be treated this way. Reckless trophy hunting has been the chief reason why mountain lions, who once inhabited our nation coast to coast, can now be found in just 16 states. And new threats continue to emerge because of human development leading to habitat loss. Wildlife officials in Utah, Colorado and Washington should act quickly to stop—not exacerbate—the carnage. Otherwise, as history shows, they are very likely to end up pushing this native American carnivore to a point of no-return in their states.
Please reach out to your state director today and find out how you can get involved in the fight against trophy hunting.