Human-animal coexistence undermined by poor understanding of animal behavior and needs

By on October 21, 2020 with 0 Comments

The recent viral video of a Utah runner’s encounter with a mountain lion on a trail has set off a new round of debate about the challenges of human-wildlife coexistence. Unfortunately, as this story broke, some media outlets were quick to sensationalize the incident, falsely claiming that the animal was “stalking” the man. In reality, the video showed a mother lion defending her kittens from a perceived threat.

Of course, we acknowledge the interests of people to protect themselves from real danger in situations involving wildlife, in those rare instances when the threat is real. That said, the words that we use when describing human-wildlife interactions matter and there is a heavy cost to misrepresentations of animal behavior in our mass media. This is all the more serious because of the increasing prevalence of human-wildlife encounters brought on by development, loss of habitat, land use decisions and the widening gap in our understanding of how these animals live in and around our communities. Sensationalized news stories about native carnivores like mountain lions, bears and wolves have the effect of creating unnecessary fear and preventing people from learning how to coexist with wildlife.

John “Griff” Griffith, a guide for California State Parks, was especially vocal in chiding media organizations for headlines and stories concerning the Utah incident that made it sound like the mountain lion was on the attack. “I know a little something about mountain lions,” Griffith said in a lively and intelligent post on Facebook. “That was not a mountain lion stalking. That was a mama mountain lion trying to get someone away from her cubs. There is a difference,” he said.

Griffith is right. It is true that mountain lions are highly stealthy animals, but their stalking behavior includes moving silently so as not to be noticed by prey. A young mountain lion may also stalk out of curiosity, but without intent to directly engage or attack a human being.

The challenges of coexisting with wildlife can be directly affected by poor decision-making in wildlife policy at the local, state and federal level, especially when they are arrived at through processes that scapegoat wild animals and mischaracterize their behavior. These kinds of processes not only hamper efforts to coexist, but can lead to retaliatory killing, support and implementation of eradication policies and or the sabotage of ongoing species conservation efforts. There is frequently a terrible confluence between the anxiety and fear that surrounds some human-wildlife encounters and the action of policy makers in authorizing lethal destruction or trophy hunting.

For example, in 2016, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources concocted a story about three endangered gray wolves posing a threat to humans, simply to justify killing them for the convenience of a cattle rancher. In 2011, a Michigan state Senator spread false stories about three wolves showing up at a day care center in Michigan and being killed by federal agents. And in New Mexico, sensationalized media and rumors about the danger of lobos, also known as Mexican wolves, became so pervasive that a school district decided to build wolf-proof cages for children at school bus stops.

Such stories are often used to justify management strategies that promote trophy hunting and lethal predator control of native carnivores. Earlier this year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife finalized a mountain lion management plan to allow the rampant killing of lions around the Glenwood Springs and Aspen areas in response to public fears. This came on the heels of an incident in which a man was attacked by a mountain lion while out for a jog. The story spread like wildfire, creating a frenzy of fear about the jogger’s harrowing encounter, which detailed how he strangled the mountain lion in self-defense. Eventually, it emerged that the jogger had killed a three-month-old mountain lion kitten. The kitten and his two siblings, who were later found by officials, were too young to be on their own and had obviously been orphaned. Moreover, mortality data shows that three adult females had recently been killed in the area by trophy hunters and ranchers.

Experts have warned CPW and Colorado residents that the indiscriminate killing of mountain lions through trophy hunting will likely only result in increased conflicts, for example by orphaning young kittens who have not yet learned how to hunt for natural prey.

Our view is that wildlife managers would be much better off relying on increased public education and outreach, as well as providing non-lethal deterrents to famers in order to protect their animals, than on the continued promotion of heavy trophy hunting of mountain lions and native carnivores.

We are also confident that the American public values native carnivores and would rather see them alive and protected than taken as trophies or killed as a consequence of public misunderstanding, scaremongering, or lack of creative and responsible effort on the part of agencies charged with their management.

For more information, take a look at our resources on human-wildlife coexistence and our campaigns to make the world safer for animals and people, as well as our resources on trophy hunting and what you can do to protect wildlife in the U.S. and around the world.

Urgent! US Fish and Wildlife Service goes rogue with proposal for baiting and trophy hunting of brown bears, and you can help us stop it

By on October 20, 2020 with 0 Comments
Urgent! US Fish and Wildlife Service goes rogue with proposal for baiting and trophy hunting of brown bears, and you can help us stop it

With a proposal to permit the killing of brown bears over bait in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has “gone rogue.” The USFWS and its parent agency, the Department of the Interior, are way over on the dark . . . 

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Judge issues hefty fine on Chelsea Kennel Club for selling sick animals, new report shows Nebraska Department of Agriculture routinely ignores puppy mill suffering

By on October 20, 2020 with 0 Comments
Judge issues hefty fine on Chelsea Kennel Club for selling sick animals, new report shows Nebraska Department of Agriculture routinely ignores puppy mill suffering

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has imposed a remarkable $3.9 million in fines on the now-closed Chelsea Kennel Club and its former owner, found liable for pushing sick puppies upon an unsuspecting public, and ordered them to set up a restitution fund for the consumers . . . 

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Another right whale on the ropes: entanglement means extinction

By on October 19, 2020 with 0 Comments
Another right whale on the ropes: entanglement means extinction

Our National Marine Fisheries Service, slow to take action, really shouldn’t need a prompt about the fierce urgency of now when it comes to protecting the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Still, a new reminder has come with the tragic sighting last week of . . . 

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Tell Missouri to trash its black bear hunt proposal; it’s based on research funded by Safari Club

By on October 16, 2020 with 12 Comments
Tell Missouri to trash its black bear hunt proposal; it’s based on research funded by Safari Club

Missouri’s proposal to open season on black bears has the trophy hunting industry’s fingerprints all over it. But the state’s residents now have a chance to voice their opposition to it. The Missouri Department of Conservation has just opened formal public comment on this ill-conceived . . . 

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Victory! Federal court rejects challenge to Prop 12

By on October 15, 2020 with 0 Comments
Victory! Federal court rejects challenge to Prop 12

Our legal team has just warded off a challenge to California’s Proposition 12, the world’s strongest farm animal protection law. A 9th Circuit court three-judge panel ruled today in favor of upholding this historic initiative that bans the heinous confinement of hens, mother pigs and . . . 

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, do your job and protect giraffes, or we’ll see you in court

By on October 14, 2020 with 6 Comments
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, do your job and protect giraffes, or we’ll see you in court

It’s been more than three years since we filed a petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act from trophy hunting and other imminent threats to their survival. During this time, the agency has responded once . . . 

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Facebook bans fake accounts funded by trophy hunting groups

By on October 13, 2020 with 0 Comments
Facebook bans fake accounts funded by trophy hunting groups

Facebook’s recent takedown of dozens of troll accounts linked to a single marketing firm sheds new light on the intensely deceptive tactics used by trophy hunting groups to sell the public and politicians a bill of goods. Last week, the social media network announced it . . . 

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Corporations make rapid strides toward cage-free future

By on October 12, 2020 with 0 Comments
Corporations make rapid strides toward cage-free future

Recently, we recognized Barilla, the world’s largest pasta maker, and TOKS, one of Mexico’s most popular fast casual restaurants, with the Henry Spira Corporate Progress Awards. These companies both made the decision to source their eggs exclusively from cage-free suppliers, and then embraced that decision . . . 

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Maryland store’s license revoked for selling puppies in defiance of law; California closes loophole to end puppy mill sales

By on October 9, 2020 with 4 Comments
Maryland store’s license revoked for selling puppies in defiance of law; California closes loophole to end puppy mill sales

The Humane Society of the United States has helped pass laws to end the sale of puppies in pet stores in three states and more than 365 U.S. cities, counties and towns. But our work doesn’t end there. We also work to help ensure these . . . 

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Roadside zoo owner Doc Antle charged with animal cruelty, wildlife trafficking

By on October 9, 2020 with 6 Comments
Roadside zoo owner Doc Antle charged with animal cruelty, wildlife trafficking

Doc Antle, a notorious roadside zoo owner who has been on our radar for years, has been indicted on animal cruelty and wildlife trafficking charges in Virginia. Attorney General Mark Herring announced the indictment today after a months-long investigation of the trafficking of lions between . . . 

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Breaking news: Mink on Wisconsin fur farm test positive for coronavirus, but U.S. inaction continues

By on October 8, 2020 with 6 Comments
Breaking news: Mink on Wisconsin fur farm test positive for coronavirus, but U.S. inaction continues

Mink have tested positive for the coronavirus on a fur farm in Wisconsin, the largest fur producing U.S. state. The news broke today even as media reports confirmed thousands of mink have died of the disease on fur farms in Utah, the first state to . . . 

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