Mountain lions live a short 13 years in the wild -- if they make it to old age. Today, few lions live a full natural lifespan.
It's a difficult life, full of potentially lethal challenges: even when the lion avoids humans.
They are shot for recreation, for sport, and for trophies. They are shot when a rancher's livestock is lost, and when pets disappear. They are shot when people are afraid.
Individual lions, and individual people, are diminished whenever we kill a lion unnecessarily. We lose not just a member of the species, but mother lions that might train their kittens to avoid people, large and well-established males that have proved themselves able to survive entirely in the wild, and lions that feel, think, experience and behave in the world as individuals.
And each time we kill a lion, we lose a little bit of what distinguishes us as humans: our capacity for compassion, for making rational decisions that benefit the common good, for overcoming the urge to demonstrate power and dominance at the expense of our neighbors and our environment.
If we lose our big cats, we will mourn a species that we barely understood. Only a few of us will have encountered an individual wild lion.
And this will be the greatest loss: That we knew just enough to save them, enough to change our behavior, enough to make a difference, and that we chose not to act.
Recently a Colorado resident wrote an opinion piece for his local newspaper lamenting the loss of Colorado's "great western outdoor culture," and warned the public about the infiltration of that state's wildlife agency by "agenda-driven environmentalists, masquerading as biologists.
Inspiration for this familiar rant was news of the arrest of three Boulder, Colorado men for felony animal abuse after they killed a trash can raiding raccoon. Claiming that this action was his "breaking point," and that raccoons are not even on the endangered species list, the opinionist went on to complain that Colorado was "feeding our precious resources [deer] ...
01/11/2012 - Last month, one of Nebraska's rare mountain lions had to be euthanized after sustaining severe injuries from being caught in a steel-jawed leg hold trap. She was one of only a handful of female lions believed to live in the state.
In a population of just twenty cats, breeding-aged females play a crucial role.
Residents saw this loss as a huge setback in the species' recovery, with many wanting a statewide ban on the traps and an increase in protection laws for mountain lions. State Senator LeRoy Louden, however, has continued his push to kill off the cats.