A special thank you to The Mountain Lion supporters!

A mountain lion in the snow
Photo by Denise Peterson

As we embark on the 2024, we would like to kick off the year with off with a very special thank you to our members. We are so grateful to you for sharing a deep appreciation for mountain lions by supporting our continued efforts on behalf of these magnificent creatures — so that they may not only survive, but flourish in the wild.

As you know, we design our programs to raise awareness about the importance of mountain lions and their habitats, advocate for policies that protect them, and support coexistence with these remarkable creatures. Through education, outreach and activism, we wpork to create a future where mountain lions and their habitats are protected and thriving.

The Mountain Lion Foundation succeeds because people like you cherish our beautiful big cats and recognize the importance of standing up to preserve our natural world and protect the creatures that call it home. Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to event more success in 2024.



A Victory for Washington’s Cougars

Cougar on a mossy log
By Sebastian Kennerknecht

Times are changing in Washington. Our Fish and Wildlife Commission protected cougars.

Late on December 15, 2023, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted overwhelmingly to support new rules that will protect Washington’s cougars and bears from overhunting.

The commission voted 7-2 in support of a petition filed by the Mountain Lion Foundation and our partners. The vote directs wildlife agency staff to revise rules in ways that should prevent overhunting and bring science and common sense back to cougar hunting laws. You can watch the debate and the vote through TVW.

This vote is a historic step in support of cougars, and commissioners deserve our support and thanks for a difficult and brave action on behalf of carnivores.

Commissioners asked hard questions about the petition and the science behind it, and in months to come, we expect them to push the department to develop strong new rules that protect cougars based on the concerns raised in our petition, and the department’s own science that we cited in the petition (science which a remarkable letter by 50 independent scientists endorsed).

Our petition asks for commonsense, science-based hunting rules that:

  • root hunting limits in the extensive field work conducted by Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists
  • cap all human-caused mortality (to avoid excessive killing by sheriffs undoing the science-based limits, for instance)
  • limit hunting to 12-16% of an area’s population (a limit based on careful scientific study, set to match natural mortality rates)
  • close loopholes that allow unlimited hunting of 18-24 month-old cougars

Commissioners and the Department will work together to develop rules based on the petition, and the Mountain Lion Foundation and our members will remain vigilant to ensure that the final rules embrace the petition’s original aims. We will not let this historic opportunity for reform be watered down by institutional inertia and pressure from anti-science special interests.

This victory happened because mountain lion supporters turned out in large numbers, sending emails and testifying in the hearing to make sure commissioners understood the need for new rules to protect cougars. The victory also came because Mountain Lion Foundation supporters have lobbied the Washington governor many times in recent years to appoint conservation-minded commissioners who will turn to the best science to guide policy. Those new commissioners voted to approve this petition. This represents a dramatic swing in the commission’s approach, away from the “shoot first” ideology that long dominated Western approaches to carnivore management.

This victory is not the end of our work in Washington. First, new rules be drafted and voted on by commissioners in the next few months, to ensure the rules take effect before hunting seasons begin again. After that, the department must enforce the new policy, and continue conducting world-class science to assess the hunting rates that will do the least harm possible to cougar populations. And the Mountain Lion Foundation’s ongoing work to advocate coexistence with cougars will continue in partnership with the Department and communities statewide.

On Anniversary Of P-22’s Death, Let Us Recommit To Saving Mountain Lions Across The United States

An op-ed published in the Los Alamos Daily Post

By R. Brent Lyles, Sharon Negri and Julie Marshall

Sunday marks the first anniversary of the death of P-22, a most beloved mountain lion who lived among Angelenos in Griffith Park for more than a decade.

P-22 lived life large as a celebrity bachelor feline, although he probably didn’t care much about Hollywood glamour. He was photographically captured by National Geographic amid the starry night’s Hollywood sign.

This was a lion who brought stalwart wildlife biologists to tears when they talked about his life and legacy: The legend of P-22 continues to grow, and his spirit lives on in a documentary, public art installations, and an exhibit at the Natural History Museum of L.A. County, just to name a few. In fact, P-22 became famous well beyond his home state, and he’s still talked about with love and appreciation across the country and around the world.

The protections demanded by Angelenos for P-22 provide much-needed inspiration for those of us fighting to protect P-22’s extended family throughout the American West. Mountain lions are being treated with the most egregious disrespect and cruelty seen since the wildlife persecution era, more than a century ago. Angelenos accepted a mountain lion to live among them in a relatively small urban space, but wildlife policymakers in most Western states have become much less welcoming — in fact, many policymakers are brazenly hostile toward mountain lions naturally existing on vast wild landscapes across the West.

This year in Utah, lawmakers succeeded in calling for an all-out war on mountain lions, allowing them to be randomly killed as well as caught in snares, often just for fun, at any time of year. Utah’s entire population could be wiped out in just a few years, conservationists say. Similarly, Idaho opened the floodgates to increased recreational hunting with just two months of reprieve for apex carnivores, who will be increasingly chased down by packs of dogs. Hounding is allowed in nearly every state that allows this kind of ethically dubious hunting. It’s little different from shooting a mountain lion in a cage, since once the hounds chase a lion up a tree, the cat is helpless to escape being shot at close range and falling to his or her death.

Other states are simply choosing to disregard the best science of basic lion ecology, stick their heads in the proverbial sand and pretend that new and valuable research doesn’t exist. South Dakota is considering accepting a lowered population of lions on the landscape in exchange for more hunting opportunities, for little reason other than that it’s a fun activity for a minority of people who primarily want to collect trophies (a head and a hide). It’s fundamentally no different from trophy hunting the African lion.

Washington state recently increased lion hunting after elk populations were reduced by extreme weather and wildfire. Montana and Wyoming are similarly using declining mule deer as excuses to boost lion killing as recreation. Our best collective research has laid to rest the idea that less lions equals more ungulates. Nature is never a simple math equation, but rather a complex and biodiverse system where wildlife is impacted by weather, disease, development, drought, habitat loss and many other multiple factors that demand consideration, rather than scapegoating a single species.

In contrast, there is great hope in Colorado as citizens of that state are looking to follow in California’s footsteps by banning trophy hunting of its mountain lions (as well as trapping bobcats) with a 2024 ballot measure called Cats Aren’t Trophies (catsarenttrophies.org). And in Florida, federal officials proposed a large wildlife refuge to protect mountain lion habitat near the Everglades, and they are acquiring land to provide safe crossings from south Florida to Georgia. We need this hope, because today with the regressive policies and permissive exploitation of mountain lions across the West, we are not only failing morally, but we are causing great harm to whole ecosystems at a precarious time.

Today we know better, and we can do better. We know that mountain lions are sentient and shy, elusive creatures who would rather avoid humans altogether. New and exciting research shows us that lions provide unique ecological services as apex carnivores, benefiting at least 500 other species. Mountain lions are a key to climate resiliency and to stopping the biodiversity losses that are happening everywhere we look. Some research has even indicated that lions selectively target deer infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD), an insidious infection without a cure that is rapidly spreading across the country, ravaging deer populations, and threatening wildlife and potentially humans. CWD was even recently detected inside Yellowstone for the first time.

On Sunday we celebrate the remarkable life of one lion named P-22. His light still shines brightly in the memories of those of us who live in lion country and yearn for a future where mountain lions are protected, as he was. We envision a world where mountain lions are not villainized and killed for fun and under false pretense. It’s ironic that P-22 was so warmly welcomed into a world of neighborhoods and freeways, while others of his kind, trying to exist in their wild places, are being ruthlessly rooted out from their natural homes. In the name of P-22, we must keep fighting to end the cruel and unnecessary killing of lions for trophies, for the welfare of humanity and for the health of the planet.

R. Brent Lyles is Executive Director of the Mountain Lion Foundation, which is based in Sacramento, California. Sharon Negri is director of WildFutures and lives in Northern California. Julie Marshall is National Communications Coordinator for Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy, based in Washington DC, and lives in Colorado.

Looking Forward to 40 More Years of the Mountain Lion Foundation

We are excited to share a very special message from Sharon Negri, the Mountain Lion Foundation’s founding Director. We are grateful for her continued partnership, and we hope you are inspired to action by her message. You’ll also find an informational sheet about where we are concerned for mountain lions, and where we find hope for their future.

Donate Today!

As the holiday season approaches, we are especially thankful for our members. We ask those who share our deep appreciation for mountain lions to come together by making a special year-end donation in support of our continued efforts on behalf of these magnificent creatures — so that they may not only survive, but flourish in the wild. We hope you will honor us with a year-end gift today.

As you know, we design our programs to raise awareness about the importance of mountain lions and their habitats, advocate for policies that protect them, and support coexistence with these remarkable creatures. Through education, outreach and activism, we are working to create a future where mountain lions and their habitats are protected and thriving.

The Mountain Lion Foundation succeeds because people like you cherish our beautiful big cats and recognize the importance of standing up to preserve our natural world and protect the creatures that call it home.

A Message from Founding Director Sharon Negri

Sharon Negri, in front of a photo of a mountain lion
Sharon Negri, founding Director of the Mountain Lion Foundation

Almost forty years ago, I co-founded the Mountain Lion Foundation and became its first acting Director. I was part of a small team that helped lead the effort to ban the trophy hunting of mountain lions in California in 1990. The ballot measure was the first of its kind, and I am proud of what we accomplished alongside thousands of Mountain Lion Foundation supporters like yourself who understood what was at stake and took action.

My commitment to protecting mountain lions is as strong as ever, and I am extremely concerned about the long-term prospects of mountain lion populations in the United States. Threats to their survival, especially across the American West, have grown at an alarming rate. In nearly every state, agencies are loosening restrictions, leading to increased hunting and cruel practices. While disregarding basic ecology and their own scientific research, these agencies continue to ignore their responsibilities to protect wildlife for all citizens.

Below are a handful of examples of disturbing policies that threaten mountain lion populations. Many more could be highlighted, each resulting in the needless death of mountain lions. 

  • In Idaho and Utah, almost all meaningful limits on cougar hunting have been eliminated in the last two years.
  • Since 2019 in Washington, the state’s wildlife agency has thrown science out the window and steadily increased hunting quotas beyond sustainable levels.
  • In Washington and California especially, key populations of mountain lions have become genetically isolated by expanding suburbs, highways, and other developments, putting those populations at risk.
  • In Nebraska earlier this year, hunting limits were increased dramatically even though the state’s entire population is likely less than 50 lions.

Sadly, these egregious actions contradict the growing consensus among scientists and elected officials who recognize that mountain lions are critical to increasing biodiversity, helping species better adapt to rapidly changing weather conditions, and allowing governments to meet their regional, state, and national climate goals.

I am incredibly grateful that the Mountain Lion Foundation continues to tackle these threats head-on. Under the stellar leadership of Executive Director Brent Lyles and his professional and caring staff, the Mountain Lion Foundation is the only nationwide organization that takes a comprehensive approach to advancing protections, addressing some of the most challenging threats facing mountain lions. Their work encompasses outreach and education, legal and administrative challenges to illegal and excessive hunting, working with top national biologists to promote the best available science, and debunking misinformation via webinars and social media. The organization’s efforts raise awareness about the importance of America’s lion on the landscape and in our lives.

Donate Today!

The Mountain Lion Foundation’s agenda for 2024 is impressive. As just a few examples, they will continue to pursue their lawsuit to stop Utah’s illegal opening of year-round mountain lion hunting; they’re creating a state-by-state assessment on lions in the U.S. for media use; and they’ll be expanding two new coexistence programs that equip individual advocates and communities with the tools they need to fight for the protection of lions across the country.

Will you join me in helping the Mountain Lion Foundation carry out its vital programs in 2024?

Their ability to successfully carry out their critically needed conservation programs depends entirely on donations from people like you and me. I realize many of you receive requests at this time of the year. Please know your donation of any size — $50, $100, $250, $500, or
more — is welcome and deeply appreciated.

Thank you for joining me at this critical time. Together we can make a difference. 

With gratitude,

Sharon Negri,
Cofounder and past Director of the Mountain Lion Foundation, and
Founding Director of WildFutures

A Return from the Trail

We recently welcomed back our colleague Paige Munson from a leave in which she traversed much of the Pacific Crest Trail, skipping only those areas that were experiencing wildfires and adapting to the unexpected throughout the long trek. She shared this recollection: 

I spent five months this year backpacking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, a trail that runs from the California-Mexico border north through California, then Oregon, and ends at the Washington-Canada border. Nearly all of this journey was through mountain lion habitat, desert scrub, oak woodlands, alpine mountain ranges, and thick forests. Not only does this trail traverse diverse habitats but also diverse land uses. I spent days walking through recreational forests, pastureland, timber forests, next to homes, along Southern California’s aqueduct, and through wind farms. Along this journey I never saw the elusive mountain lion, though they also crossed the roads I did and slept through the same nights in the wilderness.  

After about 100 miles of backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail, I hiked into the small town of Warner Springs, California. We had spent our morning hiking through pastureland and past Eagle Rock, on the ancestral lands of the Cupeño people. My partner and I left our packs outside of the community center, eager for a snack and a cold drink. Upon walking into the small building. I was greeted by a kind man offering us sodas and chips, and a place to charge our devices.  

Mounted on the wall, I saw large photographic images of mountain lions with blurbs about their habitat and behavior, as well as brochures for staying safe with mountain lions and cards with phone numbers to call for assistance. I turned back to the man and told him I worked with the Mountain Lion Foundation and asked how people in the community were doing with lions in their midst. He enthusiastically told me about regular lion sightings, and that there were abundant deer to support the lions. As for the people, he felt the community knew how to live with lions; the mountain lions were a part of living in Warner Springs.  

The Mountain Lion Foundation has been lucky to have incredibly active volunteers such as Robin Parks and Jane Santorum in San Diego County, who aid with wildlife conflict and educate communities about best practices for living with mountain lions. The years of work that has been poured into helping both people and lions have helped create communities happy to share their homes with wildlife. I left the community center to head back to the trail, grateful to be a part of a team dedicated to saving lions and helping the people who live with them.

If you want to join the Mountain Lion Foundation team, fill in our volunteer interest form. 

Looking Back on a Year of Successes and Looking Ahead to 2024 

By R. Brent Lyles, Executive Director

As 2023 winds down and we look ahead to 2024, I’m delighted to share with you some of my personal highlights from this past year. These include programmatic successes, stories of impact, and some work behind the scenes to strengthen our organization. I’ll also share here some thoughts about our exciting plans for the year ahead.

Across the country, mountain lions face a growing list of challenges, including the loss and fragmentation of habitat, real-time manifestations of the rapidly unfolding climate crisis, and hunting pressures that go well beyond what the science tells us that lion populations can realistically sustain. If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to elaborate on these challenges, but suffice it to say that the work of the Mountain Lion Foundation is needed more than ever.

These challenges were on our minds as the Mountain Lion Foundation’s staff and board of directors launched an organizational strategic planning initiative in the Spring of 2023. As we considered future priorities for the organization, we sought input from our members and donors, we considered the landscape of opportunities and challenges on the horizon, and we reached out for suggestions and advice from other wildlife organizations, our partners, working scientists, representatives from Indigenous nations, and thoughtful leaders from across the social and political spectrum.

What emerged were the following three Key Organizational Priorities for our work:

  1. Champion broad protections for mountain lions and their habitats across the United States;
  2. Cultivate proactive, community-based coexistence for people and lions; and 
  3. Foster deep appreciation of mountain lions and their ecological significance. 

I think about our successes in 2023 in terms of these three priorities.  

Protection and advocacy in 2023:  

At the end of the day, our work must result in “saving cats,” as our board members are fond of saying. To that end, in 2023 the Mountain Lion Foundation launched a lawsuit in Utah to overturn an incredibly dangerous expansion of hunting in that state; we joined an inspiring coalition of advocates in Colorado to end lion trophy hunting in that state; and we worked with many partners to outlaw some very potent rodenticides that were sickening mountain lions in California. We also spent considerable time in Washington state, working with partners to begin dialing back excessive cougar hunting in that state. What’s more, we spoke out in Montana, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and more, opposing proposals to increase mountain lion hunting.  

Proactive coexistence in 2023: 

In addition to responding to dozens of requests for help in 2023 — from sheep ranchers who had lost livestock because of non-lion-proof enclosures to representatives from USDA’s Wildlife Services who wanted to incorporate more non-lethal options into their incident-response plans — the Mountain Lion Foundation formalized and piloted two new coexistence programs in 2023 in Washington and California. The first, Coexistence in Practice, offers coexistence tools and intensive, hand-on trainings to local communities across the countrywere lion activity is especially high. The second, the Coexistence Ambassadors program, prepares individual advocates to educate their neighbors and local leaders about how to live in peace with lions. It also trains these Ambassadors to fight for the protection of lions in their communities. 

Outreach and education in 2023: 

Fostering a deep appreciation of mountain lions and their ecological importance is all about communication, and the Mountain Lion Foundation made great strides in this area in 2023. We rebuilt reimagined and expanded all of our communications functions — our newsletters, social media, our website, and our relationships with journalists and the media-support systems — from the ground up. As a result, we reached thousands more people across the country this year, we provided the most up-to-date scientific information to decision-makers and the media, and we earned national and statewide media attention. We also relaunched our highly engaging, monthly webinar series, Living With Lions, and expanded our organizational partnerships in order to multiply our impact. 

In addition to these programmatic successes, we also made some changes behind the scenes to support our staff and operations. We reorganized staff responsibilities to align better with our programs, we strengthened our staff benefits and prioritized healthy work-life balances, and we restructured some of our financial systems to facilitate greater efficiency and transparency. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in this area, and together, these changes are helping our organization to be as strong and lean as a mountain lion! 

Looking ahead to 2024: 

Many of these programmatic initiatives, including especially our work in Colorado and Washington, our newly launched coexistence programs, and our outreach programming, will continue and expand in the coming year. We are also planning new coalition-based projects for lion protection in California and Nevada, and we are excited about a potential new outreach partnership in Montana. Guided by the input we received during our strategic planning process, we’ll also be exploring opportunities in the education of school-age children and the reintroduction of mountain lions in eastern states.  

None of this work — none of it — would be possible without strategic and values-driven financial investments by our members and donors. Your contributions enable our staff to face the mounting challenges ahead with creativity, passion and determination. This is not just our work — when you make that generous investment, whether it’s large or small, our work becomes your work too. Thank you for your partnership, and together, we’ll ensure that mountain lions survive and flourish in the wild. You have my humble respect and personal appreciation. 

For the lions!

Gearing up for Giving Tuesday

The Mountain Lion Foundation’s dedicated members play a critical role in the protection of mountain lions across the nation. November 28 is Giving Tuesday, a special day to come together and ensure that America’s mountain lion survives and flourishes in the wild.

Donate today, or on Giving Tuesday.

Our work has been ramping up recently in Colorado, where we are thrilled to report that voters will soon have a chance to put an end to mountain lion hunting within their state. Initiatives like this pave the way for protecting mountain lions throughout the country.

The ballot measure would establish a new section of Colorado law, declaring that “Trophy hunting of a mountain lion, bobcat, or lynx by any means is prohibited.” Voters will be asked to agree that “trophy hunting of mountain lions, bobcats, and lynx serves no socially acceptable or ecologically beneficial purpose,” and to outlaw any hunting except that specifically authorized by state agencies as a response to livestock depredations or immediate risk to people. Even in such cases, the law would make clear that lethal responses cannot be contemplated until “appropriate nonlethal methods…have been taken” according to rules set by the state Department of Parks and Wildlife.

If adopted, Colorado and California would stand as the two states which have protected mountain lions from all recreational hunting. The Mountain Lion Foundation was founded by leaders of the successful referendum campaign in California and has been proud to support the Colorado residents who are leading the charge to end trophy hunts for mountain lions in their state.

The Mountain Lion Foundation is looking forward to continued work with this campaign to ensure that Colorado wildlife policy is built on a foundation of the best science and a true reflection of Coloradans’ love for the outdoors.

We are only able to continue this work in Colorado and throughout the west thanks to the support of people like you, who recognize the importance of preserving our natural world and protecting the creatures that call it home.

With your support on this Giving Tuesday, we will continue to educate the public about the importance of mountain lions, support coexistence, and advocate for policies that protect their habitats and promote their long-term survival.

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Utah litigation update

All in for Utah’s cougars

As we reported previously, the Mountain Lion Foundation has sued the state of Utah to overturn a new cougar-hunting law that opens up unlimited hunting and trapping in that state, year-round.

The lawsuit gained considerable media coverage in Utah when it was announced: In this news piece, for instance, our executive director, R. Brent Lyles, was interviewed, and in this news story, Kirk Robinson, executive director of our co-litigant Western Wildlife Conservancy, shares his perspective as a conservation-minded Utahn.

Now that the lawsuit has been filed and the state of Utah has been served, the next step in the litigation process is the state’s response, which will arrive later this month. They may try to have the lawsuit dismissed, or they may decide to respond to each of the lawsuit’s allegations, point by point. Either way, litigation processes like these usually take many months, if not years, to be completely settled. “We’ll all have to be patient as these wheels of justice turn,” confirmed Lyles. “The cougars in Utah are in trouble, and although it may take a while to get this resolved, we’re in it for the long haul.”

For more information about the litigation in Utah, see the Mountain Lion Foundation’s announcement about the lawsuit. You can also learn more about cougars in Utah by visiting our website’s Utah information page.

In Washington, A Petition to Move Hunting Policy Back to the Future

By Josh Rosenau, Director of Policy & Advocacy

On October 25, the Mountain Lion Foundation and our partners filed a petition with Washington state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, seeking to restore science-based guidelines for cougar hunting management. The petition asks for a series of changes which would prevent excessive hunting, and would reinstate more protective policies that have been slowly eroded since 2017. The Commission has 60 days to address the petition from the date it was filed. If the Commission accepts the petition, that will begin an extensive rulemaking process, including opportunities for formal public comment, and further voting by the Commission. Through that process, they could choose to strengthen or remove any of the changes we requested.

Addressing the Commission’s meeting on October 27, I addressed the Commission as a resident of Washington and in my role as Director of Policy and Advocacy, responding to earlier public comment by hunting groups: “Notwithstanding the fearmongering you may have heard from others today, the petition’s aim is quite modest. We ask that the department base its hunting guidelines on the decades of research on Washington’s cougar populations, most of it paid for by our tax dollars through the Department and state universities.”

The petition makes a number of specific requests to the Commission. At its core is a request to return to rules adopted in 2017 which limited hunting to approximately 14% (give or take 2%) of a game management unit’s adult cougar population. That 12-16% cap is based on extensive research in Washington and other western states, and that same cap is a standard part of our requests to all state wildlife agencies. In addition, the petition asks that the population baseline should be set using data from the decades of field work by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists, not “perceived density” or other such unscientific dodges adopted by previous Commissions in order to raise hunting limits.

The petition also asks the commission for a series of common-sense changes that simplify and clarify the hunting rules. We ask that they close a loophole in which subadult kills (18-24 month-olds) simply do not count toward hunting limits at all. We ask for a single hunting season, in which hunting would cease in units the day that hunters hit the game management unit’s limits; under the current complex system, a season that ends at midnight on December 31 can never close based on overhunting, but a minute later on New Year’s Day, a season begins in which hunting ends a week after hunters reach an area’s limits. The petition also asks that all killings, including those in response to depredation or claims of a threat to public safety would count toward the limits that can close areas to further hunting, and reverses increased bag limits on cougars in the Blue Mountains, an unsuccessful policy implemented in 2022 as an unscientific and unwarranted experiment to address declining elk populations in an area disrupted by climate change. Finally, the petition asks that cougar hunting be returned to the normal three-year cycle of season setting, rather than the current ad hoc schedule.

To explain these requests, the petition offers a detailed history of how the hunting guidelines deviated from the science-based guidelines of the past, and details the scientific basis for the proposed rules. Because many of those decisions were made simultaneously with changes to bear hunting guidelines, the full petition also suggests a set of parallel changes to bear hunting as well. While the full petition clocks in over 80 pages, based on records request and research by the Mountain Lion Foundation and partner groups — especially Claire Davis of Animal Earth Law — the proposed changes to department regulations are quite minimal, and the effect on most hunters would be almost nonexistent. The benefit to cougars would be immense, and we will offer members in Washington opportunities to express their support for this petition in the days to come.

The petition and its associated files are available as a .zip file.