From the Editorial Advisory Board: Mountain lions

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

As mountain lion sightings in the region increase, there has been talk about allowing more hunting to thin their numbers. Your take?

To say I’m an avid user of open space is like saying that Boulder leans left. I’m running, climbing or cycling in the hills above Boulder at least five days a week, frequently every day of the week. I’ve been doing it for more than a quarter of a century, on every day of the year.

I’ve seen deer that are so used to humans that I’ve run within six feet of them, almost close enough to pat them on the back. On Green Mountain, in the darkness of a very early morning, I once followed a bear up the Amphitheater Trail until it eventually detoured off the trail.

In all that time, I’ve still never seen a mountain lion. How cool would it be to see a lion? A lion! People travel to Africa to see lions, yet we have them right here. One of the greatest benefits of living where we do is being close to so much wildlife.

Mountain lions and bears are large, powerful, and very dangerous if they attack, but they very rarely attack humans. There have been three Colorado fatalities from mountain lions in more than 100 years of record keeping. Lions seem to instinctively know that humans aren’t prey.

We already have to hunt elk and deer to help control their populations, mainly because we’ve driven away their predators. Hunting lions would just exacerbate the problem and we’d then have to kill more deer. Killing will just lead to more killing.

While hunters are generally quite safe, with fewer than 1,000 shooting accidents per year in the U.S. and fewer than 75 deaths, those 75 deaths per year are seven times the number of U.S. deaths by mountain lions in the last 50 years combined. It is 350 times more likely that someone will be killed by a hunting accident than a cougar.

Possibly the overall risk to humans would increase if we had hunters in our open space. Hunting lions would be a mistake.

Bill Wright, billwright510@gmail.com

One of the only predators that can naturally thin the mountain lion population is the wolf, which humans eradicated from Colorado in the 1940s. When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, the overall health of the ecosystem improved because wolves go after the weaker, sicklier animals.

Human hunters tend to look for the healthier specimens, meaning that while recreational hunting may help with overpopulation, it doesn’t necessarily improve the health of the population. This fall, there will be a statewide ballot initiative to reintroduce gray wolves into Colorado by 2023. It will be the first time in the United States that voters will be able to decide on wolf reintroduction.

I don’t know how effective wolf reintroduction will be at stemming mountain lion excursions into Front Range communities, but making efforts to restore the natural predator-prey relationships that existed long before we came to this land feels right and just. Simply issuing more mountain lion hunting licenses seems unlikely to stem the problem of mountain lions coming into populated areas.

My understanding is that some mountain lions develop the habit of coming into populated areas because they’ve learned that they can find food more easily in those areas, but presumably we’re not talking about allowing mountain lion hunting within city limits, so how do we know that the hunters will be killing the problem lions?

Hunting is a blunt instrument for dealing with a minor problem. There have been just 27 fatal mountain lion attacks on humans in the entire United States in the last 100 years. We have bigger problems to deal with right now.

Jane Hummer, janehummer@gmail.com

I have had only one encounter with a mountain lion in my life.  It was here in Boulder on Mount Sanitas. One day a week, usually on Tuesdays, I hike Sanitas Trail around 5 a.m. It is a great workout, and I do it year round.

One July morning a few years back, I arrived at the trail head and started my trek. It was still dark and my headlamp was blazing the way. As I approached the saddle in the west ridge just before the first false summit, I saw them.

Two gigantic eyes, smack in the middle of the trail, staring back at me about 20 feet away.  It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at, but then, with the help of my head lamp, I could make out the lion’s face, the ridge of his back, and its tail. I froze, then cursed, and then remembered back to my mountain lion training; which fully consisted of one four-minute song from Boulder’s own Jeff and Paige. Thanks Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks for that training!

All right, so after freezing and cursing, I took off my pack and made myself look big. To my surprise, the mountain lion didn’t move. It just stood there staring at me.

Honestly, I was surprised because I thought that as soon as this big guy caught wind of me, off, he would go. But no! We were locked in a staring contest. “Damn it!” I thought. I really wanted to get a workout in and this dude is standing in my way. What to do next?

Since my presence alone wasn’t enough to budge this lion, I had to do something else. Yelling and harassing him was next move. I start yelling and banging my hands together.  “Yes! that worked! He moved!” I thought.  But, my joy was short lived because he had just moved onto the ridge about 10 feet above me. Now he had the high ground.  I was doubly screwed.

After about five minutes of playing this game, another hiker (a tourist) came up behind me. What’s going on?” he asked. “There is a mountain lion right above the trail. Can’t you see it?” I said.

“No” said the tourist (he was not wearing a headlamp and it was still dark). “Is it safe to go?” he said. “I think,” I said, “You go first.”

So, off we went, me and the tourist, directly under the mountain lion. The tourist placed strategically between me and the lion and the mountain lion’s big, glowing eyes staring down at us. Having made the trek often and in better shape, as soon as I cleared to a safe area, I was gone. I never heard a scream, so I assume the tourist returned unscathed.

My take: Lion populations fluctuate with the availability of prey. Let them be; it’s their habitat. As for me, I am always looking for early morning hiking partners, preferably slightly slower than me.

My email is below, feel free to reach out to me if you are up for it.

Doug Hamilton, hamilton1801@aim.com

Commentary: WDFW’s deadly experiment

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is conducting an experiment that threatens not only domestic animals and livestock, but may increase risk to rural residents. Because no ethical authority would approve its experimental design, WDFW relies on untested anecdotal methods to further its experiment.

For more than 30 years, some researchers hypothesized that hunting of cougars —mountain lions — leads to increased livestock conflicts. With advanced research technologies enabling tracking the behavior of America’s lion, a picture of social organization emerged showing resident cats had well-defined territories with little or no overlap among resident males, but with males encompassing multiple female territories.

When a territory becomes vacant, several transient cats will move in to contest and take over the area. When adjoining areas lose resident cats, the resulting “social chaos” by the arrival of typically less-experienced cats may lead to an apparent increase in the cougar numbers and ensuing conflicts as those cats may take chickens, goats or pets for an easy meal.

Research in Washington, as in other states and British Columbia, shows a high correlation between cougar mortalities and verified conflicts. Studies suggest if adult cat deaths remained below about 14% of the adult cougar numbers in an area, cougar society remained stable, with minimal conflicts. Initially, WDFW decided to adopt a hunting paradigm that would maintain cougar social stability.

Rather than conservatively limiting harvest to 10% of the adult cats in a Game Management Unit (GMU) as recommended by WDFW biologists at the 10th Mountain Lion Workshop, administrators elected to set the harvest guidelines to target 16%, including juvenile cats even though juveniles and kittens suffer high natural mortalities of about 50% per year. WDFW created an unrestricted season, September through December, with no GMU limits on cougars killed.

In addition, WDFW extended cougar hunting season to seven months, Sept. 1 to April 30. Last season WDFW recorded a record 379 cougars killed. At the halfway point of this accounting year, Washington has 220 recorded cougar mortalities.

Initiative 655, passed by 63% of statewide voters in 1996, banned the use of hounds to hunt cougars, lynx, bobcats and bears. Since, some have argued that the cougar population has exploded. WDFW does not publicly dispel that conjecture, even though cougar mortalities are higher now than during any previous decades, the result of increasing cougar-tag sales more than 40-fold.

“Conventional wisdom,” advocated by some, and apparently by WDFW, would tell us that if we kill more cougars, we’ll have fewer problems. Several recent investigations of up to three decades of data show that hunting cougars correlates with increasing conflicts.

However, correlation does not imply causation. The only way that research biologists can show a causal link is to design a medical-style experiment with controls. What community would volunteer to be part of an experiment to kill more cats to test for an expected increase in conflicts? WDFW’s current policy surreptitiously has been doing just that!

In several eastern regions, WDFW allows harvest above management guidelines, and aggressively kills cougars when responding to complaints. WDFW is also allowing county sheriffs to call out hounds to kill cougars when someone calls in a cougar sighting.

The results are clear: more complaints. Will the complaints change when there is a real emergency, but law enforcement is unavailable because officers are out chasing a cat someone saw?

In 2011, while biologists were publishing results from millions of dollars of research, WDFW removed the goal “Promote development and responsible use of sound, objective science to inform decision-making” from its mission and goals statement. WDFW chooses to “manage” cougars with conventional wisdom and political expediency rather than best consensus science. The outcome is increasing complaints from residents in over-hunted areas, and record deaths in our cougar population.

Now, WDFW plans to increase cougar harvest to respond to complaints in the over-hunted regions. Instead of helping people coexist with cougars, WDFW increases turmoil by killing cougars.

Enough, WDFW! Use the science taxpayers paid for; quit aggravating conflicts!

Bob McCoy is an advocate for science and apex species. For the past decade he has volunteered for the Mountain Lion Foundation, and was recently elected to chair the board of directors. He lives in Sammamish and has lived in Washington state since 1962 other than seven years he served in the U.S. Navy as a naval aviator.

Three mountain lions killed after they ate human remains near a popular hiking trail in Arizona

Mountain lions, like this one pictured on the US Forest Service website, are not known for consuming human flesh.

(CNN)Officials in Arizona killed three mountain lions who ate human remains close to a popular hiking trail.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department discovered the human remains Tuesday during an investigation at Pima Canyon Trail near Tucson and closed the trail, the department said. The Arizona Game & Fish Department said in a statement Wednesday the lions were killed overnight.
The mountain lions are not suspected of killing the victim, Game & Fish officials said. Authorities are trying to determine what happened on the trail, the sheriff’s department said.
“Mountain lions are not routinely scavengers. A mountain lion eating human remains is abnormal behavior. Those that do are more likely to attack a human being in the future,” Game & Fish Department Regional Supervisor Raul Vega said in a statement provided to CNN affiliate KGUN.
Vega added: “In addition, they did so 50 yards from a popular hiking trail and within sight of homes, and repeatedly showed no fear of responding officers.”
He said the mountain lions “were a clear and present danger to public safety.”
The mountain lions are being preserved as possible evidence in the death investigation, officials said.
An autopsy for the victim is scheduled for Thursday.

Mountain lion known for crossing 405 killed on the same Los Angeles freeway

The mountain lion, known as P-61 to researchers, was struck and killed on the 405 freeway.

(CNN)A mountain lion known for crossing the Los Angeles 405 freeway was struck and killed by a vehicle early Saturday morning, according to National Park Service (NPS) Ranger Ana Beatriz.

The mountain lion known as P-61 lived in the Santa Monica mountains near the Sepulveda Pass, Beatriz said in a statement. He wore a radio collar around his neck so researchers could track his movements.
The 405 freeway through the Sepulveda pass

The 4-year-old cat’s final GPS point showed him between Bel Air Crest Road and the Sepulveda Boulevard underpass.
City of Los Angeles Animal Control officer retrieved his body, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said on Facebook.
It appears he was trying to cross the 405 freeway, Beatriz said.
Just months ago, he had successfully crossed that same freeway, the first time a GPS-collared mountain lion had done so over the course of the NPS’s 17-year study of mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, Beatriz said.

A hiker in Canada was approached by a cougar. She blasted Metallica to scare it off

Dee Gallant and Murphy had an exciting run-in during a hike.

(CNN)It’s no secret that Metallica’s music can be kind of intense — so much so, one hiker says, that it scared off a curious cougar on Vancouver Island.

Dee Gallant, 45, was on a hike in South Duncan with her dog, Murphy, on July 23.
She said she was only a few miles into the woods when she turned around and realized that they had company: They were being stalked by a cougar.
At first, she was intrigued; she’d never seen one that close before. But then she realized that the animal was approaching her.
She yelled, and the cougar stopped moving. But it didn’t retreat.
Gallant tried waving her arms and yelling at the cat, saying things like “bad kitty!” and “get out of here!” but the cougar stood its ground.
That is, until Gallant opened her phone and chose the loudest band she could think of: Metallica.
The song: “Don’t Tread On Me.”
It was both a warning and an appeal.
And that, apparently, was what did it. The cougar scurried off after the first few notes, the combination of heavy drums and James Hetfield’s vocals apparently too much to handle.
The incident lasted a total of five minutes, but Gallant said she wasn’t scared.
“I actually thought it was really cool that I got to see a cougar for so long,” she said. “I thought it was exciting.”
Gallant kept the song on loop for the rest of her hike, making sure to stay in the middle of the road and keeping Murphy close.
“I definitely think Metallica saved the day there, for sure,” she said.

Did Washington State Fish and Wildlife internal directive lead to killing of Snoqualmie Valley cougar?

[Article by contributing writer, North Bend resident and wildlife enthusiast, Melissa Grant]

On April 5th 2019, a Capital Press headline read, “WDFW Director: When in doubt, remove the cougar.” This memo came shortly after a March Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commission meeting in Spokane. New director Kelly Susewind – WSU grad with a degree in geological engineering and longtime Department of Ecology employee – took over in January 2018 after the former director resigned. To many, the new director’s ‘remove the cougar’ stance sounded like a change that could result in the killing of more animals.

Less than a month later – in our own backyard – that directive claimed one of its first victims.

The audio transcript of that March Commission meeting made it clear that many were concerned about cougar populations. Most notably, one group claimed that cougars and wolves were responsible for the deaths of 25,000 deer annually in NE Washington. They also went on to claim these predators were responsible for DFW funding shortfalls. If you believe their numbers and follow their extrapolations, you can see how the cougars are costing the state a fair bit of money in lost hunting permits. Apparently, they and the other meeting attendees convinced Susewind the problem was statewide and the memo was distributed to wildlife & enforcement programs on April 24th.

The very next day, on social media, a story started unfolding. In the comments of a wildlife story, a local man was telling a tale of losing his goat to a cougar. “I had my 130lb goat plucked off by a cat 30yards from my back door.”  Some tried to help by sharing links and tips for protecting livestock. Others offered contact info for the local DFW bear and cougar specialist. It was clear from his response he didn’t think much of the Department or want their advice. “lol. WDFW has been here tracking this mother and 3 cubs for 8 years. Who is this ‘specialist’? Do they have experience hunting and hunting predators?” He said he also had a second goat taken in early February. Like the three men at the commission meeting, he seemed convinced the reason for the attacks was simple: loss of deer. Furthermore, the WDFW had been at his house that very day looking and he was disgusted by the “spiel” he had heard about responsibility.

It was clear this man wasn’t inclined to change his mind and a quick look at his Facebook page showed he had very poor husbandry, leaving his goats susceptible to attack. But what effect did the memo have on his two previous encounters with DFW officers? There were enough details to submit a public records request for both goat depredation incidents.

Soon after there was a Digital Open House with the WDFW director and other staff on May 13th. Armed with a copy of the memo and having studied department reports on cougars, four questions were put into the queue for consideration:

  • A recent incident in the Snoqualmie Valley involved a resident with poor husbandry losing two of his livestock in three months. One call involved multiple officers, according to some accounts. What is the cost per call? How much taxpayer money is spent on repeat offenders?
  • How are you solving repeat problem situations with large predators outside of killing animals? What if people don’t follow recommendations given by officers? Will you be following up with citations, fines and long-term solutions?
  • There are recommendations in WDFW 2018 Game Status and Trend Report to avoid/minimize conflict and interactions with large carnivores through outreach, education, better husbandry and an emphasis on personal responsibility.  However, the director’s memo regarding dangerous wildlife of April 24th excludes all references to these things. Is there a general trend towards de-emphasizing personal responsibility?
  • WDFW manages fish and wildlife. Why does it suddenly sound like it is just helping remove or eliminate wildlife and carnivores? Where does responsible management play a role?

Two and a half hours later, these questions were either not asked; asked but significantly changed; or answered with what can only be described as blather.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, the questions were resubmitted to the director. Game Division Manager Anis Aoude replied on May 17th. The answer to the third question stood out as somewhat reassuring: “The Director’s memo that you mention was not intended to de-emphasize personal responsibility.  It was intended to stress that human safety should be paramount when making decisions related to large carnivores.  Our employees will still be emphasizing that good animal husbandry is the best way to avoid livestock depredation.  They will also continue to provide technical assistance and suggestions along those lines.”

That answer coupled with point two on the memo – “When public safety is threatened or when livestock have been killed despite an owner’s efforts to protect the stock, staff will make every reasonable effort to removing the offending animal(s)” – seemed to suggest that the memo didn’t mark a statewide change in policy after all.

However, getting the reports from the local goat incident a few days later would again call into question what that memo actually meant for our state’s animal residents.

The first report was dated February 3rd and told a tale of a goat killed by a small or juvenile cat. The DFW officer searched the property, found the kill site and questioned the owner as to the whereabouts of the goats that previous night. He was told that the goats “roam free during the day and loiter around the barn at night”. They added they were not secured in the barn and had not done so for a “long time”. The officer continued his search, found a gap under the fence a cat could climb under and noted that the fence could have easily been jumped over as well. He informed the owner of his findings, gave advice to secure the goats at night and suggested adjustments be made to the fence.

The second report was dated April 26th – two days after the memo was issued. On the 25th, the owner contacted the DFW again to say his remaining goat had been killed by a cougar. The officer then contacted his supervisor who told him to give the owner permission to tie the carcass to a tree and shoot the cougar if it came back. Late that night the owner called, saying he’d shot at two cougars – killing one. In the morning after speaking with the officer from the prior incident who had noted the property’s inadequate fencing, several officers headed to the residence.

Once at the residence, the officers walked the property, took photos and found the deceased cougar and goat. Karelian Bear dogs arrived to look for a wounded cougar, but none was found.  The dead cougar was a 50-60lb sub-adult female. The officer’s supervisor recommended not issuing a written warning for negligent feeding, poor fencing and husbandry practices “due to the Directors memo” even though the report noted, “no effort was made to better his fences.” The reporting officer also noted he “would have told him not to kill cougar and put up an electric fence if not for the director’s memo”.

So, does Washington State have a cougar problem? In some areas perhaps, but experts say that hunting practices may partially be to blame for this problem. Many incidents involve juvenile cats that were either alone or with another similarly aged animal. Orphaned cubs – left alone without a mother – often resort to preying on humans and livestock out of desperation. Thus, hunters who kill a mother cougar may be inadvertently causing this issue.

Calling for increased hunting pressure on cougars is unwarranted. There is no evidence that decreasing a cougar population will decrease interactions, as research has shown in multiple states. There is no evidence that an increased cougar population leads to more problems.

According to the WDFW’s 2018 Longterm Funding Plan, department funding comes from six main sources: federal, user fees, state and local contracts, state bonds and license plates. User fees alone are approximately 23% of the DFW’s spending, with a major portion of that coming from hunting and fishing licenses.

WDFW’s mission statement is: “To preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities”. Sounds a bit like they must try and serve two masters simultaneously. Perhaps that meeting back in March tipped the scales towards the consumptive users’ needs – aka hunters and fishers. How else do you explain how an issue in the northeast corner of Washington affected policy in the Snoqualmie Valley?

Residents in Eastern Washington have been making themselves heard on the subject of cougars. If you want your opinion to be considered, you must also make your point of view known. You can contact the Director at:

Kelly Susewind: Director’s Office PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200 | 360-902-2200 | director@dfw.wa.gov

FWP kills mountain lion found near Helena’s Centennial Park


MTN News File Photo

HELENA – A mountain lion found in Helena city limits has been killed and removed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The Helena Police Department reported the mountain lion was spotted at NorthWestern Energy property on the 1300 block of Last Chance Gulch around 7:30 a.m.

An employee saw the cat in the bushes near a building entrance.

Interim Police Chief Steve Hagen stated in a news release that “immobilizing and relocating mountain lions located in urban areas is not a safe/feasible option so lethal means are used.”

The HPD, animal control officers, and FWP all responded.

-Reported by Jacob Fuhrer/MTN News

Mega-development would threaten the Florida panther’s very survival

BY JACLYN LOPEZ
JANUARY 23, 2019 07:31 PM, UPDATED JANUARY 23, 2019 08:31 PM

https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article224985985.html

With some of the most powerful back legs of all the world’s big cats, Florida panthers can cover an astonishing 45 feet in a single bound when chasing prey or avoiding danger.

But those remarkable skills are no match for the panther’s chief predator and cause of premature death: automobiles.

In 2018 alone, 26 of these beautiful animals — considered to be among the world’s most endangered mammals — were run down while trying to cross the state’s choked roads. An analysis of 175 Florida panther deaths between 2014 and 2018 indicated that 101 of the big cats were killed in Collier County, the majority by vehicles.

That’s why a proposal from large landowners in eastern Collier County to plop a mega-development right in the middle of some of the panther’s most important remaining habitat is so insane.

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Landowners seek to convert 45,000 acres of habitat — land that scientists have said is critical to the Florida panther’s survival — into a sprawling development that by 2050 will attract up to 300,000 new residents and generate an additional million vehicle trips a day.

The upshot: Developers behind this ill-conceived plan want permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act to put an estimated 90,000 new homes in the middle of the panther’s core range.

Used most widely in Florida, California and Texas, so-called “habitat conservation plans” promise to protect a portion of land as habitat in exchange for permission to develop massive tracts of land in locations where the Endangered Species Act and other conservation laws might otherwise restrict or guide development.

Unfortunately, many studies have raised concerns about how well HCPs actually protect endangered plants and animals.

For example, in a 2010 study published in the Ecology Law Quarterly, Jessica Owley, a University at Buffalo School of Law professor, assessed four HCPs in California to determine how effective they were in mitigating harm to endangered species.

She characterized her findings as “alarming.” Federal agencies often had trouble even finding the HCP conservation agreements. County offices charged with recording the HCP’s property restrictions often had inadequate records of what those restrictions actually required.

“Such uncertainty,” she wrote, “calls into question this method of environmental conservation.”

Sadly, what she found in California is hardly an isolated problem. As land development evolves, local, state and federal agencies rarely have the time, staff or money to accurately assess whether HCPs’ promises of endangered species protections are ever carried out.

In the case of the proposed Collier County HCP, the problem is made worse by the fact that the land the developers would set aside is fragmented and would continue to be used for agriculture, development and oil and gas exploration..

Given that scientists tell us the panther cannot afford to lose even a single acre, the fact that the HCP would “preserve” some of the land while developing the rest is likely to slow progress that state and federal agencies have painstakingly made toward recovering the panther and may even undermine its continued survival.

For example, the current federal recovery plan states the Service will consider delisting the panther when three populations of at least 240 individuals each have been established and sufficient habitat to support these populations is secured. This proposal makes that goal much more difficult to accomplish.

The proposed HCP assures ongoing sprawl into the Sunshine State’s ever-dwindling wild areas and offers little in return for Florida’s incredible wildlife.

The plan simply isn’t good enough for Florida’s endangered panthers or the majority of Floridians, who care deeply about preserving the state’s ever-more-endangered environmental heritage.

Jaclyn Lopez is Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

California firefighters rescue a cougar stuck up a tree

Photo: San Bernardino County Fire/Facebook

ON SATURDAY, firefighters rescued a cougar that was stuck in a tree just outside a home in San Bernardino, California. The animal was about 50 feet up when the authorities were called by the homeowners. After securing the area, the San Bernardino County firefighters tranquilized the cougar and lowered it safely to the ground thanks to a harness. Once it was assessed by biologists for any injuries, the cougar was released back into the wild.

Photo: San Bernardino County Fire/Facebook

Photo: San Bernardino County Fire/Facebook

According to Kevin Brennan, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), “It is common for young mountain lions to wander outside what some would consider normal habitat in an attempt to establish their territory.” Cougar attacks on humans are very rare. According to statistics compiled by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in over 100 years there have been fewer than a dozen human fatalities from mountain lion attacks in North America.

Wildlife officials defend mountain lion management practices

This photo of a mountain lion provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife is not one of the animals involved in last month’s West Glenwood sightings.

In the weeks since local wildlife officials began to receive reports of mountain lions near homes in West Glenwood, threatening dogs and stalking humans, criticism of the way Colorado Parks and Wildlife handled the situation persists.

After numerous reports of mountain lions in and around Glenwood Springs, caught on infrared video and at least one personal encounter, officials trapped and killed five of the big cats in January. That decision has prompted strong reactions from Glenwood Springs Post Independent readers, wildlife advocates and people across the state who felt another solution should have been be exercised.

CPW spokesman Mike Porras maintained that wildlife officials did not make the decision arbitrarily and used their years of knowledge and experience working with wildlife to determine that lethal removal of these animals was the correct solution.

One comment Porras said he’d been hearing from those concerned with the actions is that “the wildlife officials took the easy way out.” He said he felt that was both untrue and hurtful to the wildlife officers who have dedicated their lives to protecting the state’s animals, environment and people.

He said killing an animal is “the hardest decision” a wildlife officer has to make, and argued the easier move would have been to trap the animal, take it somewhere else and simply let it be — perhaps to its ultimate demise, regardless.

CPW has received several comments in reaction to previous stories in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and picked up by other media outlets statewide demanding the mountain lions be relocated instead of being euthanized.

 

Relocating these particular lions, which had shown “no fear to humans,” was not a viable option for wildlife officials, according to Porras.

Porras said that doing so could result in the lions returning to West Glenwood or moving into other human population centers. He added that the displaced lions could disrupt the ecosystem wherever they were moved, especially if there are other established lions nearby.

Last week’s story reporting that five animals had been euthanized received responses from residents in Colorado, California and Washington state, some suggesting that it is the lion’s territory where humans are living. Others offered different solutions for officials.

One example was from Washington, where the state’s department of fish and wildlife adopted a Karelian Bear Dog Program, essentially a hazing technique to try to get the animals to move elsewhere. The primary purpose of the program is to limit the many bear-human conflicts that occur in Washington and reduce the number of bears that have to be lethally removed, according to the state website.

Porras said these types of hazing techniques are used by wildlife officials throughout Colorado, but added that with these particular lions it was not considered an option because there was no guarantee the hazing would result in new learned behavior for the full-sized predators.

He said there was “no guarantee based on one encounter” that the lions would leave for good if hazed, and officials simply were “not willing to take that risk.”

Among the reports wildlife officials received about West Glenwood mountain lion activity last month included multiple attacks on pets, sightings of mountain lions stalking people in the middle of the day and carcasses of recent elk killings left in people’s backyards.