Arizona Game and Fish Commission Approves the Arizona Hunt Guidelines, Setting Up the Next Five Years of Mountain Lion Management
Phoenix, Arizona – On Friday, April 1, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted 5-0 to approve the Arizona Hunt Guidelines, establishing the next five years of hunting management for Arizona’s mountain lions and other hunted wildlife species.
The approved Hunt Guidelines came with two improvements for mountain lions, both targeted towards female lions. The Arizona Game and Fish Department will now limit female mountain lion hunting to 50% of the total mountain lion hunting limit in each unit, and count female mountain lions as adults if they show evidence of lactation, thereby counting these individuals towards their existing adult female hunting limit of 25%. Previously, the Department only counted females over three to be adult, even though many reach reproductive maturity between two and three. This was especially problematic given that that lions less than three years old are the most heavily hunted age class in Arizona.
Despite these improvements, several important recommendations were not included in the final Hunt Guidelines. “We were hopeful that the Department would prohibit hunting during times when female mountain lions are having kittens, and limit overall hunting levels to no more than 14 percent of the independent mountain lion population,” said Logan Christian, Region II Conservation Advocate for Mountain Lion Foundation. “The best available science demonstrates that those changes would prevent the majority of kitten orphaning and ensure a more stable population over the long run.”
The Department included a new positive change for black bears- to evaluate habitat conditions every three years, or after landscape-level events such as wildfire. However, they did not include a similar provision for other native carnivores impacted by changing habitat conditions. “Mountain lions need similar periodic habitat evaluations given the impact of drought and wildfire on their population,” said Christian. Additionally, the Department decided to maintain their spring bear hunt, making Arizona one of only seven states that still allow black bear hunting during this sensitive time when mothers are nursing their new cubs.
Before voting on the Hunt Guidelines, the Arizona Game and Fish Commissioners reacted to public criticism received throughout the Hunt Guidelines process. Several Commissioners posited that maintaining current hunting levels is justified since hunting provides revenue for wildlife conservation. Holding up a check from Arizona Deer Association, Commissioner Leland Brake stated, “We have a stable population because sportsmen groups are paying to support wildlife.”
Christian criticized the notion that hunting revenue makes the conservation of mountain lions and other native carnivores possible. “Hunting tags for mountain lions and other native carnivores provide a small source of revenue for the agency, and these species should be considered more than just a hunting opportunity. They hold intrinsic value and real tangible value as ecosystem engineers. They are worth far more alive than dead, and should be managed for all of us, not just hunters.”
Over the last seven months, MLF staff, volunteers and partners worked to raise awareness about mountain lion hunting management issues through media engagement, presentations and public testimony. “We were hopeful that the Department would make additional changes for Arizona’s mountain lions in line with the best available science,” said Christian. “However, we are grateful for the small improvements made, and will continue to advocate for the conservation of mountain lions and other native carnivores in Arizona.”
The Mountain Lion Minutes are a blog authored by Zack Curcija, an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Estrella Mountain Community College and Arizona-based volunteer with the Mountain Lion Foundation.
The Archaeology of America’s Lion
The most enduring cultural legacy of the mountain lion in the United States is preserved in the etymology of Lake Erie. Lake Erie takes its name from the common name for the Erie People, an Iroquoian-speaking group that inhabited the lake’s southern shore in present day Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. To their Wendat (Huron) allies, the Erie were known as Eriehronon or “Panther Nation,” derived from the Wendat yenrish, meaning mountain lion (literally, “long-tailed one”) and ronon, denoting nationhood (Barbeau 1915; Sioui 1999). Early French explorers and cartographers believed this name reflected the high density of mountain lions in the forests around Erie territory, and referred to the Erie People and Lake Erie as the “Nation du Chat” and “Lac du Chat,” respectively (Harder 1987).
Mountain lions appear directly in the rich archaeological record of North America through relatively rare occurrences of claws, teeth, and hide. More commonly, mountain lions are indirectly represented in artifacts and features (e.g. rock art and monumental architecture) in nearly every medium available to ancient North Americans. Mountain lion effigies in wood, stone, clay, shell, bone, and native copper conferred leonine beauty, power, and protection to human beneficiaries. Material culture ranging in size from a carving that could fit in the palm of your hand to the 125-foot-long Panther Itaglio Effigy Mound testify to the prominence of mountain lions in the cosmology and worldview of many Indigenous cultures (Birmingham 2000).
The presence of mountain lion remains in the archaeological record – while rare – establishes that Indigenous people hunted mountain lions throughout antiquity. Ethnographic literature, the use of mountain lion products by historic-era groups, and detailed artistic representations in the archaeological record (e.g. the presence of dew claws in carvings) corroborate some degree of traditional hunting. Historically, mountain lions were hunted by several tribes for their hides, claws, and meat – though mountain lion meat was taboo for some tribes or for individual members of specific religious groups within tribes that otherwise consumed it (Hamell 1998; Kuhnlein and Humphries 2017). The extent to which Indigenous people hunted mountain lions in antiquity is impossible to determine with accuracy. Considering the broad and unimpeded range of mountain lions at the time of European contact, which is today used as a reference of a “natural” distribution, it’s fair to assume that traditional levels of hunting never approached the industrial-scale persecution the species experienced in recent centuries.
Despite their important role in Iroquoian cosmology and common representation in material culture, mountain lions were – as of a 1998 report – absent in the faunal remains of all excavated Northern Iroquoian sites, among the best-documented archaeological traditions in North America (Hamell 1988). From the Southwest, my region of specialization, I know of only three archaeological sites yielding mountain lion remains, but more than a dozen representations of mountain lions in artifacts and rock art. My inexhaustive analysis reveals that mountain lion remains appear less frequently in southwestern archaeological contexts than some rare exotic items, such as copper bells or macaws imported from present day Mexico.
With such an intimate relationship with their local environment, ancient people probably encountered mountain lions often while travelling, hunting, and collecting resources. However, the paucity of mountain lion faunal remains in the archaeological record suggest that hunting mountain lions with traditional means was nonetheless a difficult and/or rare endeavor. Three variables likely limited traditional levels of hunting from adversely affecting the continental mountain lion population as a whole. Here I will make generalizations of the nuanced details of human societies for the sake of brevity and conveying broad trends.
First and foremost, Indigenous people did not have any cultural or economic incentives to eradicate mountain lions or other predators. Such practices seem entirely incongruent with Indigenous perspectives on the natural world, and humanity’s place therein (Hughes 1976). With the exception of turkeys raised in parts of Mexico and the American Southwest, the only domesticated animal in ancient North America was the dog. Conditions were therefore not fertile to germinate the adversarial relationship between human and predator found on other continents where livestock was raised. Although mountain lions and humans often sought the same prey species – chiefly, deer – mountain lions were not viewed as competition. Instead, mountain lions were venerated cross-culturally for their physical prowess, and material culture associated with the athletic felines was worn or carried to imbue humans with good fortune in hunting and warfare (Hamell 1988; Hamilton 1964).
Further, the population size and density of the pre-contact United States was markedly lower than today. For perspective, the most populous human settlement north of Mexico during pre-contact times was Cahokia, an anomalously large ancient city along the Mississippi River that was home to approximately 15,000 people at its zenith between 1050 and 1200 CE (Jarus 2018). Before the advent of agriculture, most people in North America lived in small and mobile band-level societies, as did forager communities across the globe throughout the bulk of human history. Once maize agriculture spread into what is now the contiguous United States, the landscape became a mosaic of relatively large and sedentary population centers – large villages rarely exceeded 1,500 people – surrounded by smaller horticultural villages and even smaller nomadic bands retaining a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Thus, there was never an evenly distributed, intensive, and pervasive pressure placed on mountain lions across a wide region at any given time, and the abundant locations of light or nonexistent hunting served as sources to replenish areas that were temporarily strained by heavier hunting.
Finally, much of the modern technology used to aid contemporary mountain lion hunters – such as firearms, spotting scopes, and GPS-collars for specially bred and trained hound dogs – was unavailable to ancient people. In the ethnographic literature, mountain lions were reportedly captured in traps or hunted directly by tracking or in chance encounters (Kuhnlein and Humphries 2017). Methods of direct hunting were limited to the use of handheld spears or close-range projectiles, such as the atlatl-and-dart system and – later – the bow-and-arrow. While the scenthound breeds most commonly used for mountain lion hunting today have origins in Europe, Native American dog breeds were used to hunt bears, so it’s possible dogs were also employed in hunting mountain lions (Kuhnlein and Humphries 2017). Slain mountain lions were treated with respect, and some groups maintained ritual shrines to honor the skulls of hunted cats (Hughes 1976; Parsons 1939).
After more than ten thousand years of Indigenous levels of hunting, the distribution of the mountain lion was restricted only by geographic variables at the time of European contact. Historically, mountain lions inhabited all of what is now the contiguous United States, with low-density or transient populations living above river corridors on the Great Plains and in the most arid regions of the Great Basin and Southwest. Within just three hundred years of the Mayflower landing, Euro-American predator policy had extirpated mountain lions east of the Black Hills, save an endangered remnant population in Florida. The annals of North American archaeology, ethnography, and contemporary Indigenous tradition demonstrate that human beings and mountain lions can successfully coexist – that respect and ample habitat are prerequisites for the continued existence of the honorable mountain lion.
Barbeau, M. (1915) Huron and Wyandot Mythology: With an appendix containing earlier published records. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau.
Birmingham, R. (2000) Indian Mounds of Wisconsin. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Hamilton, T. (1964) Pueblo Animals and Myths. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Hammel, G. (1988) Long-Tail: The Panther in Huron-Wendat and Seneca Myth, Ritual, and Material Culture. In N. Saunders (Ed.) Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas (p. 258-286). New York: Routledge.
Kuhnlein, H. and M. Humphries (2017) Traditional Animal Foods of Indigenous Peoples of Northern North America: http://traditionalanimalfoods.org/. Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment, McGill University, Montreal.
Parsons, E. (1939) Pueblo Indian Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sioui, G. (1999) Huron-Wendat: The Heritage of the Circle. Vancouver: UBC Press.
The Mountain Lion Minutes are a monthly blog authored by Zack Curcija, an Arizona-based volunteer with the Mountain Lion Foundation.
The Consequences of Sport Hunting: Orphaned Kittens
A gunshot pierces the crisp December air in a central Arizona mountain range, temporarily halting the cacophony of baying hounds. A female mountain lion – a queen – is dead. She was not destroyed for committing depredations on the cattle that graze the nearby valleys. She was not posing any threat to the humans who pursued and killed her for sport. She was also not a solitary cat: A litter of approximately four-month-old kittens awaits her return.
How many kittens comprised the litter will remain a mystery, though it is probable the slain female – like the average mountain lion mother – had between two and four kittens. Young kittens are entirely dependent on their mother for nutrition and protection, and – once orphaned – are destined to die of starvation, exposure, or predation on their own. This is the presumed fate for all but one of the litter, a remarkable female kitten who emerged from her mountain stronghold nearly one month after the death of her mother. Lured to an idyllic homestead by the sound of clucking chickens, the kitten ventured to the same trailhead where the hunters who killed her mother initiated their chase.
A benevolent rancher discovered the emaciated kitten clawing at a chicken coop in a desperate attempt to satiate weeks of hunger. At the recommendation of the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), the kitten was captured and rescued by the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, where she was rehabilitated back to health and given the name Poppy. There she will spend the remainder of her life among other mountain lions with similar backstories. Though her growth was stunted from the malnutrition she suffered at an early age, Poppy retains the vigor that saw her through her time as an orphan, and she enjoys roughhousing with her older – and much larger – foster siblings.
Poppy is emblematic of a common but typically invisible repercussion of mountain lion hunting. While the recreational harvest of spotted kittens or females with spotted kittens is unlawful in Arizona, young kittens are rarely travelling with their mothers when the latter are pursued by hunters and their hounds. Aiming to reduce the number of kittens orphaned each hunting season, AZGFD recently implemented a seasonal closure between June 1st and August 20th of each year to accommodate a portion of the seasonal birth pulse when most kittens are born (AZGFD 2021a). A seasonal closure – in principle – offers a window for dependent kittens born during the birth pulse to physically develop and begin travelling with their mothers, therefore making family groups more identifiable to hunters when the season reopens.
However, the brief recess – in practice – only benefits a small minority of kittens born during the earliest stage of the closure, which itself represents a fraction of the seasonal birth pulse observed in North American mountain lions. Though female mountain lions can birth litters at any time throughout the year, North Americas mountain lions exhibit a seasonal birth pulse between May and October, during which more than 70% of annual births take place (Laudré and Hernández 2007; Logan and Sweanor 2009). For the first six weeks of life, a period known as the “denning” life stage, mountain lion kittens are mostly sedentary and therefore especially vulnerable to orphanage while their mother frequently travels alone. As kittens mature, the probability they will be found travelling with their mother increases continuously until they disperse to establish their own territory as independent subadults between 12 and 24 months of age (O’malley et al. 2018).
Most of the studies that support the birth pulse phenomenon are from northern latitudes. An Arizona study revealed a possible delayed birth pulse, which may reflect an adaptation to extreme summer heat and aridity. Most kittens in the study area were born in August, October, and December, suggesting there is minimal overlap between when most kittens are born and the seasonal closure that occurs when temperatures are high and historic levels of hunting were already relatively low (Wakeling et al. 2015; Zornes et al. 2006).
To confer sufficient protection to most mountain lion mothers and their dependent kittens, a seasonal closure must accommodate a greater portion of the mountain lion birth pulse. Research conducted by Panthera found that the overwhelming majority of mountain lion kittens born in a given year complete their denning stage and are capable of travelling with their mothers by December 1st. The biologists reveal that extending a seasonal closure from June 1st through November 1st would accommodate the denning period of 85% of mountain lion family groups that include dependent kittens, while delaying the season until December 1st would accommodate the denning period for 91% of litters (O’malley et al. 2018).
At nearly nine and half months long, the hunting season for mountain lion is conspicuously longer than that of any other big game species in Arizona (AZGFD 2021b). A seasonal closure from June 1st through December 1st would still allow for six months of hunting opportunities while improving the detectability of most mountain lion family groups on the landscape. Extending the seasonal closure to overlap with the hunting seasons of other game species is also important to mitigate the type of hunting that most adversely affects female mountain lions. AZGFD data show that hunters targeting other game species while opportunistically carrying a mountain lion tag are less selective if they encounter a mountain lion. Opportunistic hunters disproportionately shoot females compared hound hunters who generally seek larger trophy males and can often get close enough to – with the appropriate knowledge – identify sex and approximate age (Zornes et al. 2006; AZGFD 2021a).
While orphaned kittens are an inevitable consequence of hunting female mountain lions, AZGFD possesses the knowledge and the ability to offer greater protection to female mountain lions and their dependent kittens through an extended seasonal closure and other measures such as reducing female harvest thresholds and implementing mandatory mountain lion sex identification training for hunters. AZGFD was instrumental in mediating Poppy’s rescue, and as an agency expressly committed to applying knowledge generated through rigorous conservation research, fostering ecological sustainability, and upholding hunting ethics, they should be receptive to sound recommendations that embody all three desirable features of modern hunting.
Hunting induced kitten orphanage is an additive source of predictable mortality that occurs each year as a function of annual hunting rates. Though precisely quantifying the number of kittens orphaned each year through sport hunting is not possible at the state or national level, estimates can be calculated from hunter harvest and mountain lion life history data. The following estimates use numbers published exclusively by AZGFD, and analogous data should be available in other states where mountain lions are managed as a game species. In 2021, hunters killed and reported 118 female mountain lions across Arizona. Age-specific information is not available at this time, and it is likely that at least some of these females were younger than reproductive age (less than 1.5 to 2.5 years old). Therefore, these calculations might slightly overestimate the number of orphaned kittens if some of the females harvested last year were themselves kittens or juveniles. The agency reports that 75% of reproductively mature females are caring for depending offspring at any time, with the majority of mountain lion mothers caring for kittens born during the current year. If 75% of the 118 female lions killed had an average of three kittens, then Poppy was one of approximately 267 mountain lion kittens orphaned by hunting in Arizona in 2020 (AZGFD 2021c; AZGFD 2021d).
Not every kitten dies as a result of being orphaned and not every kitten with a mother survives to adulthood, but the kittens that were orphaned and died because of hunting would otherwise have competed within the arena of natural selection where their survival or death would influence mountain lion population health. AZGFD reports that the survival of orphaned kittens is significantly lower than the survival rate of kittens with a mother: Kittens older than six months have a 71% chance of survival once orphaned compared to a 95% survival rate in kittens with their mother, while kittens younger than six months have a 4% chance of survival as an orphan compared to a 66% survival rate in kittens with their mother (AZGFD 2021d). In reality, kitten survival rates exist on spectrum such that the probability of survival increases exponentially with age. The broad age categories outlined by AZGFD likely yield an overestimation of kitten survival since the survival rate of an orphaned seven-month-old kitten will be closer to the survival rate of an orphaned five-month-old kitten than that of an orphaned eleven-month-old kitten.
Making the conservative assumption that the age classes of orphaned kittens are neatly arranged into thirds (one third of the kittens are less than six months old, one third are between six months and a year old, and one third are over one year old and almost ready for dispersal), calculations based on AZGFD data suggest that around 137 orphaned mountain lion kittens died as a consequence of sport hunting in Arizona in 2020. Had this cohort of misfortunate mountain lion mothers survived to raise their litters, they would have collectively lost roughly 38 kittens to natural sources of mortality. Therefore, in 2020, sport hunting in Arizona resulted in the death of approximately 99 mountain lion kittens that would have otherwise survived to dispersal, adulthood, and reproductive viability.
The story of Poppy the mountain lion kitten represents the disproportionate impact of killing a female mountain lion with dependent kittens: How – in an instant – a single gunshot destroyed two generations of female mountain lions, and removed all possibility of Poppy growing to become a progenitor of her species in the wild. She lived for nearly a month as an orphan, weathering winter storms and frigid nighttime temperatures, evading predators, securing water, and likely outlasting her siblings before being mercifully rescued on the brink of death.
Most young kittens in her situation perish in obscurity, but Poppy may shine as an ambassador of future generations of mountain lion kittens vulnerable to orphanage without added protection. Her story compels us to question whether hunting induced kitten orphanage must remain an unfortunate reality, and recent conservation research suggests the current magnitude of these unintended collateral effects is reducible with ethical management strategies that consider mountain lion life history.
Logan, K., & Sweanor, L. (2009). Behavior and social organization of a solitary carnivore. In M. Hornocker & S. Negri (Eds), Cougar: Conservation and Ecology (p. 105-117). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
O’malley, C., Elbroch, L.M., Kusler, A., Peziol, M. and Quigley, H. (2018), Aligning mountain lion hunting seasons to mitigate orphaning dependent kittens. Wildl. Soc. Bull., 42: 438-443. https://doi.org/10.1002/wsb.902
Wakeling, B., Day, R., Munig, A., and Childs, J. (2015) Age and Sex Composition of Harvest and Timing of Birth Frequency for Arizona Mountain Lions. In L. Huenneke, C. Van Riper, and K. Hays‐Gilpin (Eds). The Colorado Plateau VI: science and management at the landscape scale (p. 95-101). University of Arizona Press, Tucson. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt183pc7f
Zornes, M., S. Barber, and B. Wakeling (2006) Harvest methods and hunter selectivity of mountain lions in Arizona. In J. Cain III and P. Krausman (Eds). Managing wildlife in the southwest (p.85-89). Southwest Section of the Wildlife Society, Tucson. https://bri.sulross.edu/pubs/proceedings/Southwest2006_sm.pdf
Beloved Beasts: a Conversation with Author Michelle Nijhuis
In the late nineteenth century, humans came at long last to a devastating realization: their rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving scores of animal species to extinction. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the history of the movement to protect and conserve other forms of life. From early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today’s global effort to defend life on a larger scale, Nijhuis’s “spirited and engaging” account documents “the changes of heart that changed history” (Dan Cryer, Boston Globe).
As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change wreak havoc on our world, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species, including our own.
About Michelle Nijhuis:
Michelle Nijhuis is the author of the new book Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction. She is a project editor for The Atlantic and a longtime contributing editor for High Country News, and her reporting has appeared in publications including National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine. After 15 years off the electrical grid in rural Colorado, she and her family now live in southwestern Washington state.
Of all the outdoor adventures I have experienced in more than four decades traversing Colorado, my solo encounter with a mountain lion last year on a trail a few miles south of Hot Sulphur Springs ranks at the top of the list.
The big cat and I locked eyes and exchanged pleasantries for several seconds before he (or she) graciously stepped off the trail and trotted nobly into the scrub. It was an exhilarating few moments with a rarely seen cougar, the proverbial “phantom of the forest.”
Unfortunately, my fond memory has since been overshadowed by the fear that the glorious wild animal that I encountered may well have been shot to death by now for no better reason than the gratification of a trophy hunter. Sadly, Colorado Parks and Wildlife allows annual cougar “harvests” even though surveys clearly show that most Coloradans oppose trophy hunting of mountain lions as well as other wild cats.
Trophy hunting of cougars serves no legitimate wildlife management purpose. Indeed, scientific studies show clearly that killing of cougars threatens not only the big cats but also has a negative trickle-down effect on non-targeted species in the wildlife chain.
Trophy killing usually entails unleashing dogs to chase down and tree an exhausted and terrified cat before shooting it to death. Whether such an action can be called “hunting” is doubtful, but there is no doubt that it cannot be called “sporting.” For this reason, surveys have shown, most legitimate hunters in Colorado oppose trophy hunting as well as trapping of wild cats.
In the next round of hunting review CPW should follow the science as well as ethical behavior and eliminate the senseless and destructive policy of allowing trophy killing of cougars. Indiscriminate killing has no place in any legitimate “management plan” of wild cat populations in Colorado and throughout the American West.
Salt Lake City, UT – Utah’s newly approved hunting targets for mountain lions are excessive and unsustainable, according to an analysis by conservation advocates. The Utah Wildlife Board voted Thursday to allow unlimited cougar hunting in most of the state, and to place harvest limits elsewhere. During the 2020-21 cougar hunting season, a record 702 kills by hunters and Wildlife Services were reported by the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
“Allowing trophy hunters to kill so many of our cougars is not only unsustainable, it is not good management, and does not support the DWR’s mission of serving the people of Utah as “trustee and guardian of the state’s protected wildlife,” stated Denise Peterson, Conservation Advocate for the Mountain Lion Foundation and resident of Utah. She continued, “The majority of Utahans do not support the killing of the state’s lions to appease a small handful of wildlife stakeholders and it is high time that management decisions reflect this reality.”
Under the plan, 33 of the 53 cougar hunting units will allow unlimited year-round harvest and have a goal of >40% female harvest. For the remaining 20 cougar hunt units, DWR recommended that hunters be permitted to kill up to 297 cougars. The policy allows a single hunter to kill up to 2 cougars per year, but does not allow the killing of cougars that have been collared by researchers statewide.
According to DWR, a record number of cougars were killed by hunters and Wildlife Services during the 2020-21 season: 702 documented mortalities. The Mountain Lion Foundation estimates, based on available suitable habitat and the solitary nature of cougars, suggests that the state may be home to around 1,600 adult-aged mountain lions. DWR estimated in 2019 that the state has 70% more lions: 2,700 individuals. DWR’s inflated population estimates were used to justify the high hunting quotas approved by the Wildlife Board.
“I worry that these excessive hunting limits will only increase conflicts between lions and domestic animals, and do little to achieve management goals of boosting big game species like mule deer and bighorn sheep,” says MLF’s Peterson. “Cougars continue to get the blame for mule deer and bighorn sheep declines, but there are many other factors that influence deer and sheep survival, including drought and lack of quality forage. Studies have even shown that hunting disrupts cougar social structures and increases conflicts with livestock and predation on declining prey.”
If you want to support our efforts or get involved in Utah, visit MountainLion.org.
Founded in 1986, the Mountain Lion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to ensure that America’s lion survives and flourishes in the wild.
At the September 2021 meeting, the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commission voted to adopt the recommended changes to the mountain lion hunt for the 2021 – 2023 seasons. They also voted to adopt change rules to allow the use of dogs to hunt mountain lion to include all property owned by the Department of Game, Fish and Parks and also the land commonly known as Grasslands managed by the Forest Service.
The approved recommendations are as follows:
December 26, 2021 – April 30, 2022
December 26, 2022 – April 30, 2023
Residents: Unlimited licenses
Harvest Limit: Black Hills Fire Protection District: 60 mountain lions or 40 female mountain lions (includes Custer State Park)
We would like to thank everyone who took the time to submit comments to the SDGFP Commission. We will continue to fight to protect mountain lions in South Dakota and across America!
Action Required! Stop the South Dakota Petition to Expand Hound Hunting and Protect Mountain Lions from Trophy Hunting
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has received a petition from the South Dakota Houndsmen Association to expand hound hunting across the state to include any public land, unless the public land specifically prohibits such, for the use of dogs (hounds) to hunt mountain lions when a pursuit originates on private land.
In addition to harming the mountain lion population, higher levels of trophy hunting can result in increased conflicts with humans, pets and livestock. In areas with low to no trophy hunting of wild cats, conflicts are quite rare compared to areas with higher trophy hunting.
Please submit a comment to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission by 11:59 PM on August 28th and tell them to oppose the South Dakota Houndsmen Association’s petition to expand hound hunting of mountain lions in South Dakota and to protect mountain lions from trophy hunting.
To submit your comment, select “Mountain Lion Season Restrictions” to comment on the petition and “Mountain Lion Hunting Seasons” to comment on SDGFP’s hunt recommendations. These are found under “Position Comment.”
Thank you for speaking up for South Dakota’s mountain lions!
As we’re sure you’re already aware, the uptick of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Seattle, WA has meant that it’s now vital to continue to limit social contact and avoid in person gatherings. For that reason, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the showing of the documentary film “The Conservation Game” until further notice. While we know this is disappointing, we hope you can understand the steps we’re taking to help keep our staff and attendees safe. We are hoping to show the film at a later date either in person when it is safer to do so or virtually.
We’ll be processing refunds for everyone who bought a ticket. If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch here: email@example.com.
Thank you for your interest in “The Conservation Game,” and for your understanding. To find out more about the virus and how you can do your bit, visit the King County Public Health or the CDC websites.
“The Conservation Game” Dives Deep into the Perils of the Endangered Ambassador Animals and the Exotic Animal Trade.
The Mountain Lion Foundation proudly sponsors an exclusive showing of the film that the Santa Barbara Film Festival calls “AN ABSOLUTE BOMBSHELL OF A DOCUMENTARY.”
Exclusive Showing of award winning documentary and VIP event with the stars of the film to follow from 9:30pm-11:00pm. You can join the stars of the movie Tim Harrison and Jeff Kremer at the Sheraton Grand Hotel for an after party!
“The Conservation Game” exposes the real story of what happens to the endangered Ambassador Animals (captive animals — especially big cats — which audiences interact with up close) that celebrity conservationists exploit on TV (e.g. Jack Hanna, Boone Smith, Jarod Miller, Dave Salmoni) and is already rattling cages within the zoological world. “THE CONSERVATION GAME”
follows Tim Harrison, a retired cop who makes a bombshell discovery while undercover at an exotic animal auction. He starts to suspect that America’s top television celebrity conservationists may be secretly connected to the exotic pet trade. The detective chases missing lions, tigers and lynx, birddogs those hawking exotic wildlife, and lets the cat out of the bag to expose lies, deception, and cover-ups.
As his investigation leads deeper into the secret world of the big cat trade, Tim and his team take their fight to the halls of Congress, pressing lawmakers to pass federal legislation that would end the private breeding and exploitation of these endangered and majestic animals. The Big Cat Public Safety Act. But when opposition comes from an unexpected source, Tim is forced to face the demons of his own past, while wrestling with the consequences of exposing his childhood hero.
“If Tiger King is the tabloid take on the big cat story,
The Conservation Game is the Pro Publica version.” – Film Threat
Attendees will be expected to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test result. While requirements are subject to change based on local health regulation, attendees who are not fully vaccinated should expect to provide, a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 48 hours (2 days) of attending.
Sheriff who previously flouted mask rules and gun laws is now violating state wildlife laws
August 13, 2021, Kennewick, WA — The Klickitat County Sheriff’s rampage against wildlife violates state law and must immediately be stopped by courts, according to new filings in a Washington State court. The filing is the latest in the Mountain Lion Foundation’s lawsuit against Sheriff Bob Songer, calls for an immediate order halting the illegal hunts and his illegal deputization of a posse to assist in the culling. Just this year, Songer has pursued several cougars, illegally using packs of hounds to chase mountain lions that posed no threat to public safety.
“Sheriff Songer’s conduct endangers the people of Klickitat County, devastates wildlife, and contradicts everything science and experience teaches us about how to protect livestock and communities,” explains Debra Chase, CEO of the Mountain Lion Foundation. “Sheriffs are supposed to follow the law, not undercut the will of Washington voters and legislators, and the laws established to protect wildlife from being cruelly and capriciously chased by dogs. It’s a shame he wouldn’t abide by the law, or meet us and other concerned citizens to find a better solution, and especially bad that we need the courts to compel him to stop breaking the laws he swore to uphold.”
The Mountain Lion Foundation’s petition to the Benton County Superior Court asks for a Peremptory Writ of Prohibition, an order blocking further implementation of Songer’s so-called Dangerous Wildlife Policy and Procedures. In 1996, 63% of Washington voters approved Initiative 655, which prohibits the use of hound packs to hunt cougars, with very limited exceptions that do not apply to Sheriff Songer.
Chase explains: “Sheriff Songer’s policy allows him and people he claims to have deputized — without any background checks or training — to chase cougars simply seen walking through agricultural areas, or feeding on deer they caught in the wild. Rather than killing lions just for being themselves, Songer should work with state wildlife agencies, his own citizens, and groups like ours to develop safe paths to coexistence in Klickitat County.”
In a 2010 survey by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washingtonians statewide overwhelmingly agreed “it is the responsibility of people to help prevent cougar conflicts when living in or near cougar habitat.” Only 10% agreed with the statement “Cougars spotted in or near towns should be killed.” In the last 100 years, cougars in Washington have only killed two people (in 1924 and 2018). There has never been a fatal attack in Klickitat County.
Founded in 1986, the Mountain Lion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to ensure that America’s lion survives and flourishes in the wild. The Foundation’s website is http://mountainlion.org.
Adam P. Karp, JD, MS is a regional animal law litigator residing in Bellingham, Washington with licenses in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. He has practiced animal law for 23 years. His website is http://animal-lawyer.com.
Utah’s newly approved hunting targets for mountain lions are excessive and unsustainable, according to an analysis by conservation advocates. The Utah Wildlife Board voted Thursday to allow unlimited cougar hunting in most of the state, and to place harvest limits elsewhere. During the 2020-21 cougar hunting season, a record 702 kills by hunters and Wildlife Services were reported by the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
Under the plan, 33 of the 53 cougar hunting units will allow unlimited year-round harvest and have a goal of >40% female harvest. For the remaining 20 cougar hunt units, DWR recommended that hunters be permitted to kill up to 297 cougars. The policy allows a single hunter to kill up to 2 cougars per year, but does not allow the killing of cougars that have been collared by researchers statewide.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has released their cougar hunt recommendations for the upcoming season. If you live in Utah, please attend the Wildlife Board meeting on August 26, 2021 to give your feedback on their recommendations. You can also submit written comment to the Wildlife Board. The deadlines for comment and meeting schedule are posted below.