Our Spring Newsletter is here!
Catch up on the latest mountain lion news by checking out our spring newsletter. In this issue, we share what brings us hope, discuss coexistence, and so much more.
Catch up on the latest mountain lion news by checking out our spring newsletter. In this issue, we share what brings us hope, discuss coexistence, and so much more.
For immediate release
Date: April 1, 2022
Logan Christian, Region II Conservation Advocate, Mountain Lion Foundation
916-442-2666 ext. 108
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.”
Join us as Dr. Patricia Cramer has an engaging and informative conversation with Logan Christian about her career studying and promoting wildlife crossings in the United States. Dr. Cramer has 25 years of experience helping identify, prioritize, and implement wildlife crossings to save both human and animal lives. Her insights are invaluable for anyone interested in promoting wildlife connectivity for mountain lions and other species.
Not long ago, many were skeptical of the idea to build special bridges, underpasses and other infrastructure to help wildlife safely cross or avoid roads. Today, however, these technologies are becoming much more common thanks to the efforts of researchers like Dr. Patricia Cramer. Working in over a dozen states, Dr. Cramer collaborates with wildlife managers, transportation planners and many others to identify critical wildlife corridors and choke points where wildlife crossing infrastructure could help prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions. Having kick-started her career modeling movement pathways for the Florida panther, Dr. Cramer also works diligently to ensure that planners consider mountain lions and other native carnivores in the planning and prioritization of wildlife crossings. Join us for a conversation with Dr. Cramer as she discusses what it takes to help wildlife move through the landscape in a rapidly changing world.
About Dr. Patricia Cramer
Dr. Patricia Cramer is an independent wildlife scholar. For the past 18 years she has researched wildlife crossing structures and worked to include wildlife concerns in the transportation planning process, with the goal of reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions while promoting wildlife connectivity across landscapes. Her research projects include three national level projects, and work with 14 departments of transportation, mainly in the western U.S. Patricia earned her PhD from the University of Florida in Wildlife Conservation, a Master’s Degree from Montana State University in Wildlife Ecology, and undergraduate degree in wildlife from State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry.
Winston Vickers is a wildlife veterinarian with the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center who has conducted research into mountain lions in California for the last 20 years. In that time, he and collaborators, and other researchers in the state, have learned a vast amount about the mountain lion populations in California, and unfortunately the news has often not been good. The accumulated research has shown that connections between populations across the state have been restricted or in some cases mostly severed to the point of ten separate subpopulations being identifiable genetically. Several of these subpopulations are at risk of significant decline or extirpation due to low annual survival rates, inbreeding, and worsening habitat loss and fragmentation. In this talk Dr. Vickers will detail the latest scientific findings from across the state that are guiding actions that may increase the odds of long term persistence of puma populations, what individuals can do to assist in their conservation, and will talk about his personal pathway into mountain lion research and conservation.
Dr. Vickers is a wildlife research veterinarian with the University of California-Davis Wildlife Health Center and the Institute for Wildlife Studies. He obtained his DVM at Oklahoma State University and practiced on large, small, and exotic species for over 20 years before returning to school to get his Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis with a focus on wildlife disease and ecology. He has been studying mountain lions and other wildlife for 20 years and directs the UCD Wildlife Health Center’s mountain lion study. He collaborates extensively with other mountain lion researchers, NGO’s, and governmental agencies in the state and elsewhere in the West, and his studies of mountain lions address issues of mortality, connectivity, habitat use, genetics, disease, conservation, and reducing negative interactions with humans and livestock. He also collaborates on studies involving other wildlife species studies, including bobcats, Channel Island foxes, Santa Cruz Island scrub jays and other avian species. He worked for many years with the Wildlife Health Center’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network on oil spill response, and is the author or a co-author of over 35 peer reviewed publications, one book chapter, and numerous white papers and reports to wildlife and other government agencies. He co-developed and directed a 9-part series of short educational documentaries about mountain lions, as well as a one hour film, that have been viewed nearly 1.8 million times and can be viewed here (https://www.camountainlions.com/). His work has been featured in numerous articles in the newspapers and in several books, and he has twice been named one of the 100 most influential individuals in Orange County, CA by the Orange County Register.
January 12, 2022 at 4:00PM – 5:30PM PST
(5:00PM – 6:30PM MT, 6:00PM – 7:30PM CT, 7:00PM – 8:30PM ET)
Arizona is proposing new hunting regulations that will have serious impacts on the native carnivore populations in the state and the ecosystems they depend on. We need your help in advocating to make these new rules as strong as they can be to protect mountain lions and other native carnivores.
Please join the Mountain Lion Foundation, Center for Biological Diversity and Humane Society of the United States for a webinar on the proposed changes being made to the Arizona hunting guidelines. Our staff will explain the changes and how you can help to make sure they do not have a devastating impact on mountain lions, bobcats and bears.
Logan Christian – Region 2 Conservation Advocate, Mountain Lion Foundation
Haley Stewart – Wildlife Program Manager, Humane Society of the United States
Gabe Wigtil – Arizona State Director, Humane Society of the United States
Sophia Ressler – Staff Attorney, Center for Biological Diversity
Catch up on the latest mountain lion news by checking out our winter newsletter. In this issue, we share our resolutions for the upcoming year, thank you for your support, and so much more.
January 6, 2022 at 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM PST includes limited live Q&A afterwards.
(1:00 PM – 2:30 PM MT, 2:00 – 2:30 PM CT, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM ET)
Join us as David and Mary Miller have an engaging and informative conversation with Logan Christian about their success using non-lethal predator deterrence and regenerative agriculture practices. With over 25 years of experience, David and Mary’s expertise and insights can be used by other farmers and ranchers, no matter how small.
MLF resources on protecting livestock - https://mountainlion.org/stay-safe/#!protecting-livestock Triple M Bar Ranch - https://www.triplembar.com/ How to choose a LGD - https://modernfarmer.com/2017/09/choose-livestock-guard-dog/ Training support for LGD owners - https://www.facebook.com/groups/lgdtraining
About David & Mary Miller:
David & Mary Miller raise lambs and livestock guard dogs on their ranch in Crowley County. They started their own business, Triple M Bar Ranch, in 1994. Triple M Bar Ranch is a family-owned and operated ranch in Southeastern Colorado. They take pride in raising naturally grown lamb and Livestock guard dogs that are born and raised with their sheep. David and Mary are the main ranch hands. Their ranch headquarters sits on Buckeye Hill in Crowley County on the bluffs overlooking the Arkansas River Valley. They also have grazing land in the valley along the river.
FUZZ: When Nature Breaks the Law. In her new book beloved science writer Mary Roach wrangles a question that has defied satisfactory resolution for centuries: What is the proper course of action when nature breaks laws intended for people? Roach approaches this question with the same keen wit she previously applied to sex (Bonk), death (Stiff), ghosts (Spook), and space (Packing for Mars).
Roach’s globe-spanning survey covers drunken elephants in India, seagull vandals in the Vatican, and our beloved mountain lions in California. She reveals how peace between species is tantalizingly within our reach—if only we could do a better job of keeping respectfully apart.”
Join us for a conversation with author Mary Roach as she discusses her book – “FUZZ: When Nature Breaks the Law” with Mountain Lion Foundation’s own Jessica Janson.
About Mary Roach:
Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestsellers STIFF, SPOOK, BONK, GULP, GRUNT, and PACKING FOR MARS. Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine, among others, and her TED talk made the TED 20 Most Watched list. She has been a guest editor for Best American Science and Nature Writing, a finalist for the Royal Society’s Winton Prize, and a winner of the American Engineering Societies’ journalism award, in a category for which, let’s be honest, she was the sole entrant.
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.
Arizona Game and Fish Department (a) (2021) Mountain Lion Fact Sheet: Understanding Mountain Lion Management in Arizona. https://azgfd-portal-wordpress-pantheon.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/archive/Understanding-Mountain-Lion-ManagementAZ10-6-17.pdf
(b) (2021) 2021-2022 Arizona Hunting Regulations. https://azgfd-portal-wordpress-pantheon.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/archive/2021-22-Arizona-Hunting-Regulations_211012.pdf
(c) 2020 Arizona Mountain Lion Harvest Summary. https://azgfd-portal-wordpress-pantheon.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/archive/2020-AZ-Mountain-Lion-Harvest-Summary.pdf
(d) Mountain Lion Identification and Methods of Determining Sex. https://azgfd-portal-wordpress-pantheon.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/archive/Mountain-Lion-ID-Methods-of-Determining-Sex-and-Age.pdf
Laundré, J. and Hernández, L. (2007) Do Female Pumas (Puma concolor) Exhibit a Birth Pulse?, Journal of Mammalogy, 88(5), 1300–1304, https://doi.org/10.1644/06-MAMM-A-296R.1
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
Wildlife photographer Roy Toft discusses the art of photographing pumas and other wildcats with Mountain Lion Foundation’s own Jessica Janson.
From exotic locations all over the globe we explore photographer Roy Toft’s world of pumas and other wildcats through the lens of his camera. Join us and be part of the adventure!
About Roy Toft:
Roy started working as a full-time wildlife photographer in 1991. Spending 6-9 months in the field every year producing natural history content for magazines, books, etc. Around 2000, Roy started leading photo safaris around the world to photography enthusiasts as well as continuing his assignment and stock work. In 2005, Roy became a founding fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers. This elite group of top professionals combine their talents to further conservation causes around the globe. Roy’s images have been published widely in popular magazines like National Geographic, Discover, Smithsonian, Audubon, etc. His coffee table book “Osa…where the Rainforest meets the Sea” is a wonderful tribute to an area in Costa Rica where Roy owned property and has been visiting for over 30 years. Roy makes his home in the beautiful boulders of Ramona with his wife Stella.