Statement on incident near Big Bar, CA

Map of norther California near Big BarWe are thankful that Erin Wilson and her dog Eva are recovering well after fending off an attack by a mountain lion near Big Bar, CA. Recent updates indicate that Eva is likely to come home from the vet soon, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is working to find the mountain lion.

Erin responded exactly as one should in such a moment. Her quick thinking and the assistance of a passer-by prevented a bad situation from getting worse. By first attempting to scare off the mountain lion, then fighting back with pepper spray and ultimately a PVC pipe, they drove away the lion. Their description of the lion indicates that it is probably unwell, underfed, and possibly suffering from eye problems, all of which likely contributed to the cat’s unusual behavior.

Incidents like this are incredibly rare, but shocking whenever they occur. Even with thousands of mountain lions throughout the West, and our constantly increasing recreation and number of residences in mountain lion territory, one is still more likely to be struck by lightning than to experience such an attack.

In the West, we live alongside wildlife like mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, bears and other animals. MLF believes that people and wildlife alike can thrive and share the landscape. It is our hope and mission to ensure that these types of traumatic encounters will be as rare as possible.

Click here for information about safety in lion country.

Learn more from Erin about how Eva is doing.

Washington’s cougars lost a champion

In response to the resignation of Dr. Fred Koontz from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Mountain Lion Foundation offers the following statement:


The bullying and attacks that led Dr. Koontz to resign are the latest and most visible sign of a crisis within Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. A recent report by the State Auditor found that agency staff often feel bullied, and report a pervasive sense that science is not driving decisions. Little wonder that so many staff “described a workplace in which management did not address patterns of unprofessional behavior consistently or effectively,” when this behavior is seen even at the highest level, in the Commission’s public meetings!

The broken culture within WDFW has consequences for wildlife. Agency scientists are bullied into fitting data to pre-existing conclusions, or their findings are simply ignored. One staffer told the Auditor: “It feels like there is a lot of political decisions that happen that are made without a whole lot of attention paid to the data that should be going into those decisions.” Among those decisions: cougar hunt quotas set to unrealistic levels based on “perceived density” despite years of careful statewide research to track actual populations and densities, and a preference for killing carnivores to manage conflict with livestock or game species when other responses are more effective and better for all species.

In the wake of Dr. Koontz’s resignation, Governor Jay Inslee must do more than name a new commissioner. The nine-member body was already operating with one seat left empty for over a year, and another commissioner serving well past the end of his six-year term. Those seats must be filled immediately with commissions who can withstand and repair what Koontz describes as “a politicized quagmire,” and who share Dr. Koontz’s scientific credentials, commitment to science-based decisions, and his passion for the agency’s mission to conserve the wildlife of the Evergreen State.

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Contact:
Josh Rosenau, Conservation Advocate, Region 1
jrosenau@mountainlion.org
916-442-2666

MLF donates pens for Boonville, CA high school farm

In the wake of recent depredations of the Anderson Valley High School FFA goat herd, the Mountain Lion Foundation has partnered with the Anderson Valley School District to install two 10×20 foot pens.

The Ukiah Journal reports:

Boonville school to receive free pens to help protect goats from predators

Mountain Lion Foundation plans to install the pens Friday

In an effort to prevent more goats being killed at the Anderson Valley High School farm, the Mountain Lion Foundation reported that it will be donating and installing two livestock pens at the school in Boonville this Friday.

“We are pleased to offer AVHS a gift of two, 10-feet by 20-feet, predator-proof livestock pens,” wrote Dylan Henriksen of the Mountain Lion Foundation, a group which offered the pens last week in response to Anderson Valley School District Superintendent Louise Simson’s request for help after three goats were reportedly attacked by a mountain lion at her school. One goat was injured and two were killed.

Henriksen explained that the offer had been accepted by Simson and teacher Beth Swehla on Dec. 10, and that the group planned to install the pens on Dec. 17. She added that “California Department of Fish and Wildlife Regional Biologist Dr. Thomas Batter, who has been in collaboration with the Mountain Lion Foundation on this case, has volunteered his time to assist in building the structure.”

Read the rest at the Ukiah Journal.

Black-bear hunt: “A reprieve”

Image by Dylan Collins, used by permission of the photographer.

In The Seattle Times, MLF’s Josh Rosenau responds to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s decision not to permit a black bear hunt next spring, calling it “a reprieve,” and a reminder of how much work remains for the commission:

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission’s recent vote to end springtime black bear hunting is a reprieve, a step forward for Washington’s wildlife and all Washingtonians who love our natural abundance.

Spring hunting poses a particular risk to cubs, born in winter dens. The hunt may orphan them, or starve them as mothers waste energy needed for nursing. Only seven other states allow such hunts.

Beyond the vote’s immediate effect, it signals a new direction. Commissioners gave new weight to science, hunting ethics, wildlife well-being and Washingtonians’ desire to enjoy our wild neighbors in peace. Unfortunately, this change may be fleeting.

One commission seat is vacant, having waited a year for the governor’s appointment. That absence left this crucial vote tied, with the swing vote serving past his term, until a successor is named.

Those new commissioners will face challenges like local sheriffs’ war on cougars, and the state auditor’s assessment that the agency is riven with bullying, abuse and a pervasive sense that science does not drive policy. It’s urgent that Gov. Jay Inslee fills those seats with commissioners who will guarantee a bright future for our wild places and those who love them.

A 21st-century approach to wildlife

This essay was published in the Spokane Spokesman-Review on November 5, 2021. It is reprinted here with permission of the paper.

A 21st-century approach to wildlife
By Josh Rosenau and Debra Chase

The killing of what may be a record-breaking cougar (“Massive cougar killed by hunter,” Oct 17), and debate over extending Washington’s spring bear hunt both show how outdated the state’s approach to wildlife is. Washingtonians love the outdoors and our wildlife. At times, we are torn between that love and outdated beliefs about agriculture and wildlife, a false belief in blood-for-blood retribution against any animal that even creates a fear of harm.

Consider the 197-pound male cougar killed as it napped on Sept. 9 by a hunter in Eastern Washington. The hunter celebrated the kill, hoping it will prove to be a record, beating the Boone and Crockett Club’s last record cougar, killed in 1979. The big tom only lived about nine years, and had it survived, could have passed on its remarkable genes to more generations of record-setting cougars.

Sixty years ago, Washington stopped paying bounties for the killing of carnivores. Those bounty programs had little effect on their stated goal of protecting livestock, but the devastation they caused our wilderness is still healing. Twenty-five years ago, voters ended hound hunts and bear baiting, deeming those ineffective and cruel ways to handle our wild carnivores. The state is slowly but surely shifting toward coexistence rather than conflict with wildlife.

Last month, this tension came up again, as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife debated allowing a spring bear hunt. Only eight states allow black bears to be hunted as they emerge from their long winter rest, and as bears that gave birth in the winter emerge to feed their cubs. Surveys of Washingtonians find that we overwhelmingly oppose such hunts as cruel and unnecessary, leaving orphaned cubs and damaging our wilderness for no benefit. Research shows that hunters are unable to reliably distinguish male and female bears, let alone tell nursing females from those that are not caring for cubs. Nonetheless, advocates and the department insist that orphaned cubs are uncommon and justify the hunt as an aid to tree farms, whose stock can be damaged by hungry bears.

Few of us will ever see a 200-pound cougar resting under a tree. The elusive cats avoid humans and can hide from all but the most dedicated pursuit. Had the hunter pulled out a camera instead of a gun, or been part of the growing contingent placing motion-activated cameras in our backwoods, others might have shared the experience, and benefited from his skill as a tracker and woodsman. A large male cougar roaming the forest, relaxing under a tree, living its short life and contributing to the biodiversity of that forest is a rare and beautiful thing. A picture for all to enjoy. Alive, it would continue culling the least-fit deer from wild herds, recycling nutrients from its prey back into forests, and making our forests and wildlife healthier. Dead, it contributes neither to nature nor society.

Approaching nature as an enemy to be conquered is outdated. Cougars have existed alongside bears and salmon in Pacific Northwest forests for as long as humans have been here, and humans and wildlife can coexist peacefully today, too. We can keep wildlife away from our livestock and tree plantations without a return to the slaughter that robbed eastern states of their native carnivores, and that has devastated our wild salmon and the orcas that rely on them. Washingtonians who love the outdoors, and who want to share our wild lands and wildlife with our children and future generations all want clean, fresh rivers teeming with fish, blue skies with colorful birds singing song, and majestic carnivores like the mountain lion, bear and wolf freely roaming our forests and mountains.

For 50 years, Washington has moved toward this new approach, but as the ongoing debate in the Fish and Wildlife Commission shows, that work is incomplete. The commission must decide whether a spring bear hunt still reflects how Washingtonians relate to nature. We must keep asking whether killing our largest carnivores for trophies fits today’s Washington, and whether a local sheriff should be able to declare war on cougars, as is happening now in Klickitat County. Or will Washington pioneer a new approach, one in which our urban and rural developments thrive alongside and coexist with the majesty of orcas, bears, wolves and America’s lion.

Josh Rosenau is a biologist and Conservation Advocate with the Mountain Lion Foundation. He lives with his wife and two children in Lake Forest Park, Washington. Debra Chase is the CEO of the Mountain Lion Foundation.