Rugged mountains at sunrise.
Text: The editorial voice of the Mountain Lion Foundation.


Are deer being used as a Beard* to kill more cougars?

It doesn't seem to matter what state it is; hunters go into one game commission hearing after another spouting the same nonsense over and over again. It's like a mantra-kill more lions so we will have more deer to kill ourselves.

They don't listen to the experts from their own state wildlife agencies who claim that mountain lions are unlikely culprits when it comes to determining why deer populations are down. They refuse to believe that loss of winter range to development of homes and subdivisions, more roads and a growing human population has a greater impact on wildlife than cougars.

All they see are reduced mule deer populations, and of course reduced opportunities to kill a deer themselves; and they blame it all on the lions.

Take Nevada for example; where according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), the population of that State's mule deer herd has dropped from a peak of 240,000 in 1988 to only 106,000 deer in 2009.

Many of the more rabid deer hunters use these figures as "proof" that there are too many cougars. Some even brag that science backs up their theory; even though they never provide the names of the scientists, nor show the data which would prove their claims. Instead they present hypothetical statistics to build up their arguments.

From 2002 to 2006 the state of Nevada had an annual "harvest" objective of 349 mountain lions. During that period, they averaged 160 cougars killed each year with hunting tags. Instead of questioning the health of the State's cougar population, Big Game Hunters assumed that 189 mountain lions escaped their just desserts each year-as a stuffed trophy in somebody's den.

These same hunting interests take this hypothetical number of 189 lions to claim that cougars are responsible for killing an additional 9,828 deer, calves or similar sized animals in Nevada annually. They base this number on the supposed amount of deer a lion might eat during the year, rather than on actual proof. What's worse is when they take this flight of fancy and place a price tag on it.

According to Hunter's Alert, each of those 9,828 supposed deer should have been killed by humans rather than wasted on natural predators. In their scenario, they claim that the cash strapped NDOW could have potentially received an additional $1,857,492 each year if only they had killed enough lions. They base this figure on a supposed $63 (the cost of a hunting license and deer tag) multiplied times 9,828 additional deer killed by hunters, then multiplied again by 3 (matching federal funds).

Amazing how killing more cougars can solve any state's financial crisis. Let's hope that enough people will see the Big Game Hunter's self-serving actions for what they are and not allow mountain lions to become the scapegoats.

* According to Webster's World Dictionary, BEARD is slang for "a person used to hide or obscure the real activities or nature of another; cover".

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