Mountain lions are under constant threat from trophy hunting throughout their range in the United States. Alamy Stock Photo
For some, freedom means the right to use nature, until destruction. Others see freedom as a huge duty to present and future generations: to protect the native wildlife and their habitats that make America one of the most fascinating places in the world.
We believe protecting wildlife is a patriotic thing to do, which is why we have sought to engage people in an uphill battle to save America’s native lion: the mountain lion. This fight has been going on for decades, but now comes at a particularly crucial time.
A little history of the mountain lion
Mountain lions were already at home in the Americas 40,000 years ago, when the first humans reached the North American continent via a land bridge from Asia. Even as human populations increased, pumas still roamed across the Americas, from coast to coast. Then, with European colonization, came the trophy hunters.
Mountain lions have been eradicated from much of their natural range due to intense culling for trophies and “predator control”. And while cougar populations have rebounded in many western states, they remain in only a fraction of their historic range – just 16 states.
To this day, despite their history of struggling to survive, mountain lions are under constant threat from rampant trophy hunting across their range in the United States. This persistent threat is all the more astonishing given that most Americans oppose the trophy hunting of pumas.
Trophy hunting can be seen as a holdover from the days of American pioneers, when wildlife and entire landscapes were viewed by European settlers as goods to be taken.
Fight for the mountain lions, region by region
Some areas of the country, like Southern California, are implementing ways to protect their few remaining pumas, such as building bridges for wildlife, others are selling cougar lives. In June, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission voted to allow another trophy hunt on its very small population of 20 to 30 adult mountain lions. While the hunt, which would begin in January 2022, will only allow hunters to kill four mountain lions and generate an expected $ 5,000 (barely a small dip in the agency’s annual budget), it could mean extinction. potential lion population in Pine Ridge, Nebraska. And Texas remains the only state with a resident population of cougars and without a single regulation protecting these cats, which means they can be hunted and trapped without limitation; even kittens can be killed.
The alarming disappearance of pumas from much of the United States makes the protection of these cats in the Midwestern states even more critical. Surviving populations in Nebraska, Dakotas and Texas could allow mountain lion families to expand into parts of their historic range, hopefully allowing them to once again call states like the Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan. While we sometimes see pumas roaming these states in hopes of finding new territory and a mate, wildlife agencies have yet to identify breeding populations.
Nebraska Game and Parks’ insistence on allowing mountain lion trophy hunting runs counter to sound science and responsible management. Habitat analysis shows Nebraska’s landscapes could support many more pumas, and federal data shows that conflict between pumas and livestock is minimal or non-existent in the state. There is simply no need for a mountain lion trophy hunt.
Not only is Nebraska’s mountain lion population already too small to withstand a hunt, the loss of additional breeding lions means a reduction in the genetic diversity of the population. As we have seen in states like California and Florida, such small populations can suffer from inbreeding leading to issues like sterility in male lions which means an even greater reduction in the population. not to mention the death of dependent kittens who cannot survive once. their mothers are killed by trophy hunters. It’s a vicious cycle that could be avoided if Nebraska Game and Parks prioritized mountain lions and state ecosystems over the special interests of trophy hunters.
Hope for mountain lions
Our fight to protect pumas across their range has gained momentum over the past decades. California stood out as the leader, banning the trophy hunting of these cats with a moratorium in the 1970s, then finally by a voting measure in 1990. Oregon and Washington followed suit shortly thereafter, the voters banning the use of dogs to hunt and kill mountain lions during trophy hunts.
Our efforts to protect mountain lions often mean working with policymakers such as lawmakers and state wildlife commissioners to promote humane and science-based policies that reduce the cruel and unnecessary slaughter of these iconic cats. We also connect committed advocates with their representatives to help adopt new policies or tackle bad policies that harm mountain lions, as well as work with national wildlife agencies to promote sound wildlife management.
In recent years, we have made modest but notable progress in protecting mountain lions in other states. For example, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted in 2018 to end year-round lion hunting, prohibiting the recreational slaughter of these cats during the summer months when vital resources like water are in short supply. rare. In 2019, New Mexico ended the use of traps to hunt trophy mountain lions.
What you can do to protect mountain lions
None of these changes would have been possible without public pressure from advocates who are ready to speak to their state’s wildlife commissioners and lawmakers on behalf of the mountain lions. But our work is far from over and we will need your help to continue fighting for the mountain lions.
Together, we can realize national ideals that include valuing the lives of our own native wild animals.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.
Public policy (legal / legislative), Wildlife / Marine mammals