Fighting to stop trophy hunting of lions in the West

by Wayne Pacelle

Trophy hunting organizations and state fish and wildlife agencies are in cahoots in the Southwest in executing ruthless mountain lion killing programs, typically involving radio telemetry equipment, packs of hounds, and rifles and bows they use to shoot lions they’ve driven into trees to kill at point-blank range. The trophy hunters are motivated by bragging rights and taxidermy (they are head hunters, and don’t eat the lions). And the states, in addition to catering to that small subset of hunters and enabling their unsporting methods of killing, view the lions as competitors with human hunters for deer and elk. In their economic calculus, every deer or elk lost to a lion is one less hunting license fee paid to the states, to paraphrase an observation from the esteemed outdoor writer Ted Williams.

But The HSUS and other wildlife protection groups are fighting back, and taking a stand for lions—in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Last week, after legal maneuvers by WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Environmental Law Center, state and federal authorities temporarily halted a massive mountain lion “control” program in Colorado ostensibly designed to inflate mule deer populations, pending further environmental review.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife had entered into an agreement with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to kill hundreds of mountain lions and dozens of black bears on two study sites to determine if these massive predator-control projects could revive the Centennial State’s flagging mule deer population.

These sorts of programs are a fool’s errand. Across the Western U.S., mule deer struggle because of habitat destruction and corridor loss. In Colorado, this has been exacerbated by rampant oil and gas drilling in western Colorado with its spider web of roads and drill pads that have degraded tremendous amounts of former mule deer habitat and migration routes.

And in New Mexico, a federal judge recently rejected the State’s second attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by The HSUS and Animal Protection of New Mexico challenging the state’s Department of Game and Fish’s 2016 decision to open a cougar trapping season on public lands—for the first time in almost 50 years. Even though hounding is bad enough, it’s all the more outrageous to allow trapping and snaring programs for lions, since the lions suffer in the traps and the traps catch whatever creature is unlucky enough to trigger the device.

The Commission’s 2016 Cougar Rule radically expands cougar trapping on more than nine million acres of public trust land, including key Mexican wolf habitat, as well as expanding opportunities for trapping on private land. The risk of a cougar trap injuring or killing a Mexican wolf is high due to the similarity in size and habitat preference between the species.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, we are in full battle mode, as we conduct the signature-gathering campaign to qualify a ballot measure to halt any trophy hunting of lions in the state. The measure would also forbid trophy hunting of bobcats, jaguars, ocelots, and lynx, in a state with the richest diversity of wild cat species in the United States.

Despite Western states’ claim of using science, their arguments amount to no more than fake news and faux science. When trophy hunters kill an adult male lion, his females and kittens are susceptible to mortality from incoming males, as many other studies from Utah, Montana, and Washington have shown. Killing one male lion results in the death of numerous other lions, particularly dependent kittens, who are cannibalized by incoming males. And if a trophy hunter kills an adult female, any kittens under 12 months of age will likely die from starvation, predation, or exposure.

Two summers ago, Americans reacted with outrage in seeing an American trophy hunter grinning over an African lion he killed in Zimbabwe. He conducted that hunt for no other reasons than bragging rights and the trophy. The people who kill mountain lions here in the Southwest are motivated by the same purposes.

Lions strengthen population of deer and elk. They are needed apex predators in intact ecosystems. The states have no idea how many lions they have, and their programs are a relic of antiquated attitudes towards predators.

It’s one thing to kill animals for meat. It’s another to do it just for the heads. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it’s the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.

P.S. Using cutting-edge, remote-camera technologies, Panthera discovered that mountain lions are far more social than biologists ever realized—despite 60 years’ research. Females share their kills with other females and their kittens and even with the adult territorial male. In return, the adult males protect the females and all of his kittens from immigrating males. If left undisturbed, mountain lions have a stable social society where reciprocity between individuals is shared. A revolutionary finding.


Ballot measure launched to ban trophy hunting of America’s lions

October 12, 2017

Two summers ago, a color photograph of Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer and his hunting guide kneeling over Cecil, an African lion they’d slain, found its way onto social media platforms and ricocheted across the planet. In response, 45 of the world’s biggest airlines – including all major U.S. carriers – said they’d no longer ship lion trophies in the cargo holds of their planes.

These companies knew that the public found the practice of trophy hunting of African lions and leopards and other rare wildlife repugnant.

With the launch of an Arizona ballot measure yesterday to stop the trophy hunting of mountain lions and bobcats, voters in the Grand Canyon State will have an opportunity to stop the same sort of pointless, cruel killing practices on a big patch of land on this side of the globe.

Specifically, The HSUS and a coalition of about 60 organizations have filed a ballot initiative to stop the trophy hunting of mountain lions and bobcats in Arizona. The measure would also ban trapping of bobcats, currently killed by the thousands every year in this state for their fur. In addition, the ballot measure would codify a no-trophy-hunting policy on jaguars, ocelots, and lynx, in case these rare cats establish healthy populations in Arizona and trophy hunters see them as future targets.

The question that millions of people asked in the wake of the killing of Cecil is the same one that people should ask in Arizona: Why would a person of wealth and privilege shoot a lion he isn’t even going to eat? An animal whose hunting behavior keeps prey populations in check and whose presence is a reminder that there are still wild places in our world where all kinds of beautiful animals, including native carnivores, should be allowed to flourish.

This will be the sixth ballot measure in the west to stop the unsporting trophy hunting of mountain lions, and voters have sided with establishing or maintaining protections for lions in every single one of them. It is also the seventh statewide ballot measure on animal protection issues in Arizona since 1994, and voters have sided with the animal protection position in six of six cases.

There are perhaps few things as senseless as the trophy hunting of mountain lions; no one eats these animals, and that makes killing them easy to classify as trophy hunting in its purest form.

What makes it even worse is that the primary method of hunting the lions is with packs of dogs and radio telemetry equipment, in what amounts to a high-tech search-and-destroy mission. A trophy hunter releases a pack of hounds, fitted with radio transmitters on their collars, and then tracks the chase with a handheld directional antenna. Once the dogs pick up a scent and careen after the lion, the quarry flees, but sometimes turns to fight – resulting in a situation that pits animals in violent combat. If the cat doesn’t kill the dogs, or the dogs don’t overtake and kill the cat (including young kittens), the cat will scamper up a tree.

The hunter will then follow the radio signal to the base of the tree or cliff face, and shoot the lion at close range.

It’s about as sporting as shooting an animal in a cage at the zoo.

Trophy hunting clubs like Arizona-based Safari Club International have, in recent years, promoted the killing of mountain lions by offering awards, certificates, and killing contests to reward and encourage trophy hunters. SCI’s award categories like “North American 29,” “Cats of the World,” and “Trophy Animals of North America” include mountain lions.

Mountain lions pose an immeasurably small risk to humans and do their best to avoid us. Lions have attacked just a handful of people in the United States in the last 30 years, even as we’ve invaded their traditional habitats with developments, agriculture, and recreational activities.

On the other hand, trophy hunters have killed more than 78,000 mountain lions during that same period – an average of 2,500 a year in 10 western states, according to a report we released earlier this year in cooperation with the Summerlee Foundation: State of the Mountain Lion: A Call to End Trophy Hunting of America’s Lion.

These native carnivores provide all sorts of benefits to their ecosystems. Mountain lions keep deer and elk herds healthier, taking weak, sick, and diseased animals. They leave carrion for black bears, grizzly bears, and other scavengers. They are highly sentient and familial. A mother will care for her kittens for up to 24 months, and if she is killed, the kittens could die from starvation, predation, or exposure.

In cases where lions cause an actual problem or pose a perceived or actual threat, the ballot measure allows selective killing of those individuals. The measure, on the other hand, is designed to stop trophy hunters from chasing down and killing unoffending lions – lions who aren’t bothering anyone, and like any creature, are just trying to live and get through another day.

This ballot measure is about our humanity. It’s about ending unsporting methods, killing for no good reason, or killing as a head-hunting exercise. It’s about letting animals have small slices of land where they don’t have to worry about the threat of premeditated human violence.

Join us in this fight to protect America’s own iconic lion and other wild cats of the west. Their future depends on our decision to act on their behalf.

Hunt endangers cougars’ young: study

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Katherine Dedyna <> / Times Colonist

November 6, 2016 06:00 AM

A cougar shot by a hunter. A new study links hunters who kill adult cougars with unwittingly putting people and younger cats at greater risk. Raincoast Conservation Foundation Photograph By Raincoast Conservation Foundatio

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A cougar shot by a hunter. A new study links hunters who kill adult cougars with unwittingly putting people and younger cats at greater risk. Raincoast Conservation Foundation Photograph By Raincoast Conservation Foundatio

Cougar hunters in B.C. who target and kill big adult cats are linked with increasing subsequent dangerous interactions with people, says the University of Victoria co-author of a new study.

The death of mature, mainly male, cougars provides inroads for immature “teenage” cougars to get in trouble with risky behaviour, and that includes contact with humans, said Chris Darimont, the Hakai-Raincoast professor at UVic.

It’s not a cause-and-effect relationship, but an association based on 30 years of B.C. data studied by three researchers, including ones at the University of B.C. and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Ecology.

“When the larger males are removed, younger males fill the void left by the killed cats,” said Darimont, scientific director for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

“And younger cats are most likely to get into conflict.”

The finding held up across the province, including Vancouver Island, which is widely described as the world’s “hotspot” for cougars.

The “strong but not universal pattern” adds to the growing weight of evidence that killing large predator mammals causes many more problems than it solves, he said. That’s because the data show that for both male and female cougars, it’s always the younger and smaller animals that come into conflict with humans.

The finding is significant in contradicting the notion popular among proponents of carnivore-hunting that culling cougars by hunting makes conflict with people less likely.

“It confronts and demolishes the idea that hunting cougars can decrease conflict,” Darimont said. Most hunters in B.C. eat what they kill, but not cougar hunters, he said.

“I believe they hunt cougars not to feed their families but to feed their egos,” he said.

The B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said provincial wildlife staff have not had the opportunity to review the study in enough detail to comment, although they were apprised of it more than two weeks ago.

“However, staff advise that hunting does not link to conflict between young cougars and people,” the ministry said in a statement. “High/robust cougar populations do, as young cats search for their own new home ranges/territories. The lack of cougars and high prey base in and around urban areas attracts these dispersing young cats, which often leads to conflict.”

Jesse Zeman, a spokesman for the B.C. Wildlife Federation, said there are “definitely some challenges with the study’s design” and disputed Darimont’s contention that cougar meat is not eaten.

Zeman, 36, learned to hunt as a child with his father and grandfather. He has never shot a cougar, but has eaten cougar meat. At annual wildlife buffets, “sweet and sour cougar is one of the favourites in the Okanagan,” where he is based, but it’s served all over the province, he said.

Darimont criticized the federation for “blindly supporting” all hunting of carnivores.

“They fail to see that most people support the hunting of herbivores like deer, elk and moose because it feeds families. But only a tiny minority thinks it’s OK to feed egos via trophy hunting of carnivores.”

Zeman rejected that characterization of the federation and cougar hunting.

“It’s more about spending time with family and friends, and getting outdoors and getting meat,” he said. Those are the three main motivations, with trophy hunting far down the list.

The province said there are no legal requirements for hunters to remove edible portions of harvested cougar, provided the hide is removed.

“However, cougar meat is considered to be excellent table fare and most, if not all, cougar hunters retrieve the edible portions of harvested cougar,” a ministry official said.

Lesley Fox, executive director of Vancouver-based The Fur-Bearers, a non-profit society dedicated to protecting fur-bearing animals, defends the study.

“This peer-reviewed, published study does what good science should do: Test new ideas with evidence. It is obvious to us that in addition to a growing mountain of reliable research, the government of British Columbia is not listening to the scientific community in regard to wildlife policy, but to those who may be influential come election time,” she said in an email.

Hunting is a big business in B.C. A provincial government analysis of hunting expenditures by B.C. residents in 2012 showed they spent $229.7 million — “a mean annual amount of $2,900 per hunter.” That included everything from fuel to ammunition, licences, lodging, equipment and food and drink.

The website of one up-Island hunting outfit describes how a guided hunter comes in for a cougar kill:

“Once road access has ended and the cougar track enters heavy cover, the hounds are released and begin trailing the cat until treed. The actual trailing can vary from a short five-minute ‘pop up’ to an all-day marathon. Once the cat is treed, every effort will be made to get as close as possible to the area by accessing one of the many logging roads that wind their way through our area. The final push to the tree will be made on foot in a variety of terrain. We can tailor your Vancouver Island cougar hunt to your physical condition.”

Darimont said that if the province is interested in reducing cougar-human conflict, it would re-evaluate cougar-hunting policy.

“My prediction is that if hunting was reduced or banned, there would be fewer human lives at risk, and if that is not compelling for a re-evaluation of policy, I’m not sure what is.

“Why jeopardize human safety to appease a minority of hunters who kill carnivores for trophy?” he asked. “California banned cougar-hunting after a referendum won easily. Romania just announced last week the end of hunting for wolves, lynx and grizzly bears — all similarly inedible carnivores killed for sport and trophy. B.C. policy still operates according to a 1950s mentality.”

Darimont said that in the 1970s, hunters killed roughly 175 cougars a year in B.C., including 25 on the Island. That peaked in about 1995 with 450 per year and 110 on the Island. The 2015 figure is 337 kills by hunters, 220 of them males.

Based on an analysis of habitat able to support deer and on estimated cougar densities, the province said the B.C. cougar population is between 5,100 and 7,000, with 800 to 1,100 cougars on Vancouver Island.

“Cougar populations are cyclical, responding primarily to changes in deer density,” the province said.

“Estimating cougar populations is challenging because cougars are secretive, and populations can be estimated only indirectly using other indices.”

Bryce Casavant, a former B.C. Conservation Service officer suspended and transferred for refusing to kill two bear cubs after their mother was put down in Port Hardy, said the province doesn’t really have firm predator numbers.

“Often our population estimates rely on ‘expert’ opinion and are really nothing more than a best-guess method. The problem is we often get it wrong. History shows us that we have hunted species to extinction by guessing. The basking shark in B.C. is a perfect example,” said Casavant, who is studying wildlife-conflict issues as a doctoral candidate in Royal Roads University Social Science program. He plans to run for the NDP in the 2017 B.C. election.

Hunting and killing the big cats does not damage the gene pool of cougars for coming generation, the ministry said. “In most cases, big cats would have already contributed to the gene pool by the time they get big, and their offspring are likely around.”

Casavant said there is a major difference between managing wildlife to extract hunter kills in perpetuity and true conservation of wildlife for co-existence and species sustainability.

“I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong,” he said, but he is advocating changes in “false terminology” about conservation principles in B.C. policy and legislation.

The province said wildlife is managed on the principle of conservation first.

“Hunting opportunities are only provided where such activities are biologically sustainable. Under no circumstances does the province of British Columbia allow hunting that threatens the conservation of any species,” the ministry said.

There has been a huge increase in hunters in B.C., says the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

“After years of decline, the number of people taking up hunting has skyrocketed — increasing from 86,000 in 2005 to 112,000 in 2015,” with growth led by youth and women.

“People are becoming far more concerned about where their food comes from and just reconnecting with nature,” Zeman said.

The downside, Zeman said, is that “B.C. is one of the most under-funded jurisdictions in North America for fish and wildlife management,” as evidenced by declines in everything from Mountain caribou to Thompson steelhead.

Unlike most of North America, B.C. does not have a dedicated funding arrangement to support wildlife populations, the federation said. Less than 20 per cent of hunting licence fees is dedicated to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, which provides funding for fish and wildlife conservation projects in B.C.

© Copyright Times Colonist

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The U.S. Forest Service is revising its plan for the Santa Fe National Forest. The Mountain Lion Foundation and our partners in New Mexico want to take this opportunity to request that the Forest Service prohibit trapping in the Caja del Rio and other areas of Santa Fe National Forest that are used by recreationalists.

No matter where you live, America’s lion needs your voice.

Anyone, anywhere in the world can sign.

Too Many Deer on the Road? Let Cougars Return, Study Says

Cougars can kill hundreds of deer over the course of their lives, leading some scientists to argue that restoring them to 19 states with large populations of deer could prevent automobile-deer collisions.
JULY 18, 2016
What large mammal regularly kills humans in the Eastern United States?

And what other large mammal might significantly reduce those deaths?

The answer to the first question is the white-tailed deer. Deer do not set out to murder people, as far as anyone knows, but they do jump out in front of vehicles so often that they cause more than a million collisions a year, resulting in more than 200 deaths.

The answer to the second question, according to a new scientific study, is the cougar.
Show Full Article:

Animal rights activists file suit against State Game Commission over cougar traps

  • By Phaedra Haywood, The Santa Fe New Mexican
  • Updated Jun 29, 2016

The lawsuit says “deadly leg-hold traps” set for cougars could snare wolves and jaguars, both protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as female cougars with kittens, which are protected under state law.

There are an estimated 97 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, officials have said, despite a federal program to recover the species. Jaguars — the largest cat species native to the Western Hemisphere — are far more rare in the U.S., after being driven to the brink of extinction by “human-caused factors like poaching and trapping,” the lawsuit says. It also names the state Game and Fish Department as a defendant.

Humane Society attorney Nicholas Arrivo, in a phone interview Tuesday, said the trapping program presents “a pretty unjustifiable risk to nontarget animals.”

Mexican wolves, jaguars and cougars share overlapping territory in New Mexico, Arrivo said. “Traps that are set for cougars are not intelligent. They are indiscriminate machines that will snap shut on any animal unfortunate enough to cross its path,” he said. He likened traps to land mines, saying both are “brutal, unnecessary and indiscriminate as to what they take.”

The State Game Commission could not be reached for comment on the case.

Lance Cherry, a spokesman for the state Game and Fish Department, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the suit “is only a distraction; the rule was crafted after nearly a yearlong process of public and scientific scrutiny, including consideration of potential impacts on endangered species. The Department will vigorously defend the rule, which is part of a world-class effort to manage New Mexico’s wildlife.”

The State Game Commission reviews the rules for hunting and trapping bears and cougars every four years. In 2015, the panel held five public meetings on the topic before approving changes in August that cleared the way for “sport harvest” trapping of cougars on private and state trust lands between Nov. 1 and March 31 without a special permit. The new rule also doubled the number of cougars a hunter or trapper can take in some areas, increasing the kill limit in those lands to four from two.

Representatives of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, the New Mexico Trappers Association and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association spoke in favor of the proposed changes at a hearing in August.

But numerous other residents spoke in opposition, including Animal Protection of New Mexico’s wildlife campaign manager, Phil Carter. He cited a 2015 poll of 1,000 New Mexico voters, saying that “across the board” those surveyed opposed the changes — and trapping in general — by a 3-to-1 margin.

“That is consistent across every congressional district in the state and every political party,” Carter said at the hearing.

Retired elementary school teacher Jean Ossorio and her husband, Peter Ossorio of Las Cruces, have signed on to the suit as plaintiffs. They’ve been Mexican wolf advocates for more than 20 years and have volunteered for many federal wolf recovery efforts, along with outreach and education activities.

According to the complaint, Jean Ossorio has attended “virtually every state and federal public meeting pertaining to Mexico wolf recovery” since 1998.

The couple could not be reached for comment.

Carter, at the August hearing, accused the State Game Commission of using outdated data to draw its conclusions about cougar populations.

“This is not about sportsmanship,” he said. “This is about killing.”

Worldwide Rally for Cecil Day in Santa Fe New Mexico

Worldwide Rally for Cecil Day in Santa Fe New Mexico
February 6th at 11:00am.  Lasts until 2:00pm.
At the Roundhouse/statehouse, at the entrance by the corner of Paseo De Peralta and old Santa Fe Trail.
We are trying to help Mountain Lions in New Mexico while also honoring and remembering Cecil.
By reminding our NM government leaders that a civilized society does not condone trophy hunting nor trapping.  Please show your support.
You can share invitations easily from our event’s Facebook page, at this link:
David Forjan
Creative Director
The Animal News Hour

US carnivore hunting policies are scientifically lacking



By now you probably know the arguments for the monitored, controlled, legalized forms of wildlife hunting. It has the potential to reduce conflict with humans and can provide much-needed revenue to be put toward conservation efforts. But not all populations are created equal; applied to the wrong ecosystem, hunting can also drive population declines, the echoes of which will reverberate throughout its landscape. In this week’s issue of Science Magazine, a group of researchers led by Montana State University wildlife biologist Scott Creel argue that wolf hunting policies in the US don’t align with the best evidence that science has to offer.

After wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) in the mid-1990s, the carnivore population grew stronger. But that trend stopped in 2009. That’s because in 2008, the population lost its protection under the ESA and hunting became legalized.

Reviews by the USFWS say that hunting “has not increased any risk” to the NRM wolf population, but Creel and his colleagues aren’t so sure. “Current policies state that half of a wolf population can be shot annually without causing the population to decline,” said Creel in an official statement. “On the basis of ecological theory, this suggestion is not likely to be correct for the wolf, or indeed for any large carnivore.”

Fully-grown, mature large carnivores usually have low mortality rates. They are the kings of their jungles, after all. Hunting doesn’t substitute for other causes of wolf death, as is more likely the case for ungulates like deer. For animals like wolves, hunting pressures instead add to the mortality rate. After hunting was legalized in Montana and Idaho in 2008, wolf pack size there declined by nearly a third. And hunting doesn’t just impact group size – it also affects a group’s social order, which impacts the likelihood that juveniles will grow to reproductive age. Indeed, in 2013, five years after hunting was legalized, hunters took 25% fewer wolves – despite an extended hunting season!

How can the scientific evidence and the USFWS review be so contradictory? Creel’s group suggests that there can be a mismatch between the animals that provide the data to inform policy decisions and the animals to which that policy applies. “Carnivore distributions do not follow political borders, but hunting policies do,” they say. Just because the overall Northern Rocky Mountains population has been relatively stable under pressure from hunting doesn’t mean that the packs in any given state are equally so. Idaho’s annual wolf counts declined by nearly a quarter between 2008 and 2013.

More importantly, Creel’s group says the studies on which the USFWS based their review focused on wolf populations that could recruit immigrant wolves from other, nearby populations. Those local losses to hunting could be replaced by the influx of new individuals from elsewhere. It’s not that wolves are able to compensate for local losses, but it might appear that way if you’re not looking very closely. By analogy, while African lions may be protected within national parks, legalized hunting just outside of parks can still destabilize the overall lion population. Harvesting lions outside of parks creates a “vacuum,” drawing in the otherwise protected lions from inside of parks – leaving them vulnerable to hunting.

There can be a sustainable way forward for carnivore hunting. The future of wildlife management in most parts of the world probably includes at least some carefully controlled harvest. But if legalized hunting is to occur, the researchers say that policies need to be based on rigorous, empirical science, which requires “clearly defined, quantitative” goals.

Current wolf hunting policies in the NRM simply aim to avoid a population crash so severe that it would require re-listing under the ESA, but that’s too hand-wavy a target. Instead, policies should specify things like maximum harvest rates or goals for population size or growth from year to year. According to Creel, “the North American model of wildlife management works very well for species like ducks or elk, but becomes much more complex for species like wolves that compete with hunters.” – Jason G. Goldman | 18 December 2015

Source: Creel, S., Becker, M., Christianson, D., Dröge, E., Hammerschlag, N., Haward, M.W., Karanth, U., Loveridge, A., Macdonald, D.W., Wigganson, M., M’soka, J., Murray, D, Rosenblatt, E, Schuette, P. (2015) Questionable policy for large carnivore hunting. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4768.

Rat poison killed the mountain lion known as P-34

Martha Groves4 hrs ago

Encounters between rats and mountain lions generally have predictable outcomes. The prey dies so that the predator can live.

But as civilization continues to push into landscapes once populated mainly by non-human species, the balance has shifted. People use highly toxic poisons to kill rats, then the low-on-the-food chain rodents take the apex-predator big cats down with them.

On Tuesday, this upending of the natural order gave Southern California activists another poster animal for their movement, as the National Park Service confirmed that the once-photogenic mountain lion known as P-34 died of exposure to rat poisons.

A necropsy of the puma, whose carcass had been found by a trail runner in Point Mugu State Park on Sept. 30, validated the initial suspicions of biologists who found blood running freely inside the dead female.

Rat poisons, or rodenticides, are designed to kill rodents by thinning their blood and preventing clotting. They lead to uncontrollable bleeding.

In addition to proving deadly for their intended targets, these poisons can wreak havoc as they work their way up the food chain. A mountain lion might devour a ground squirrel that consumed the bait or an animal such as a coyote that had eaten another animal that had the bait in its system.

“This is the latest indication that local wildlife continues to be exposed to these rodent poisons,” said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist who has led a long-term study of mountain lions in the park service’s Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Scientists said Tuesday that evidence was mounting that California’s July 2014 ban on retail sales of certain highly toxic rat poisons – called second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides – has not produced the far-reaching benefits that researchers had hoped.

“I thought there would be more improvement than I’m actually seeing,” said Stella McMillin, senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’re still seeing non-target exposure at pretty high levels.”

Although consumers may no longer buy these “super toxins” off the shelf, farmers and licensed pest-control companies regularly use them. Bait boxes have become ubiquitous accessories outside restaurants, hotels and grocery stores.

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Moreover, other rat poisons that consumers are still allowed to use are increasingly showing up in wildlife, said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit advocacy group in Oakland.

Wildlife deaths continue to demonstrate the “need to ban these products from the market,” he said. He and other activists have met with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to point out loopholes in the ban.

“We continue to call on state regulators to ban these poisons to protect California’s most iconic and imperiled wildlife,” Evans said. Consumers and businesses, he added, must consider using other rodent-control methods that “do not involve killing predators that are part of the solution.”

P-34, who was not quite 2 years old, showed evidence of exposure to five compounds, “an impressive number,” Riley said.

Last December, P-34 made news when she was discovered lounging under a trailer in a Newbury Park mobile home community. A resident photographed the lion ambling along the top of a wall in her backyard.

P-34’s was the first puma death conclusively linked to rat poisons since 2004, when scientists confirmed that two siblings died because of exposure to the toxic chemicals. Those lions, P-3 and P-4, spent most of their time in the Simi Hills, north of the 101 Freeway.

In 2012, a hiker in Point Mugu State Park found the carcass of a female lion known as P-25. The cause of death was never determined, but toxicity from rat poisons was strongly suspected, given that she showed no sign of disease or having fought with another lion.

P-34’s sibling, the male P-32, was struck and killed by a motorist in August while attempting to cross Interstate 5 near Castaic.

P-32, who was about 21 months old, was the only male mountain lion known to have dispersed out of the Santa Monica Mountains and wander north into other habitat areas. He had managed to cross the 101 Freeway, State Route 23, Highway 118 and Highway 126.

Park service researchers have documented the presence of rodenticide compounds in 12 of 13 mountain lions they have tested, including a 3-month-old kitten.

Scores of bobcats, coyotes and other animals are known to have died from internal bleeding likely caused by the toxins.

In 2014, P-22, the Griffith Park mountain lion, famously developed a case of mange that biologists said was probably caused by exposure to rat poisons. A park service biologist applied a topical treatment and injected Vitamin K to offset the effects. Recent images of P-22 indicate that he remains mange-free.

Washington’s Governor Nixes Radical Cougar-Killing Plan

Washington’s Governor Nixes Radical Cougar-Killing Plan

By on October 21, 2015 with 3 Comments

Gov. Inslee agreed with our position that the difference between the final quotas and the proposed quotas was substantial enough to have triggered public process requirements. He also took note of the fact that the science supporting the prior quotas appears to contradict the agency’s decision to raise them.

It was 19 years ago that voters in Washington outlawed the practice of trophy hunters using packs of hounds to chase and tree cougars. This was an altogether unsporting set-up for a hunter, who can then walk to the base of the tree and shoot the animal at point-blank range. The vote on I-655 was a landslide, with 63 percent of voters favoring the initiative, including voters throughout eastern Washington (the more rural and conservative side of the state).

Yet, since that time, a gaggle of state lawmakers has been working to unwind the ballot measure. They’ve sought to introduce experimental hound-hunting seasons. And the Fish and Wildlife Commission has tried repeatedly to expand quotas and liberalize other elements of the hunting season. We’ve done our best to hold the line, fending off an outright repeal of this portion of the ballot measure. This latest maneuver from the Commission also went too far, and that’s when we appealed directly to Gov. Inslee to intervene.

Let’s be clear: nobody eats cougars. It is the purest form of trophy hunting in the United States outside of a captive hunting facility. And despite the hype and the fear-mongering, cougars are elusive and furtive, doing their best to stay away from people. In some communities, cougars co-exist very well in close proximity to people. In Washington, there has only been one attack on a person in the last 100 years.

It’s also important to note that wildlife scientists at Washington State University in Pullman have determined that the random shooting of cougars does nothing to minimize the already remote risk of a human encounter with a cougar. In fact, science shows that random killing of trophy animals may actually contribute to the prospect of an encounter, by shifting the age profile of the population from stable adults to younger, more inexperienced cougars who are more likely to have negative encounters with people or livestock.

At the same time that we passed the anti-hounding ballot measure in Washington nearly 20 years ago, we defended California’s ban on any trophy hunting of lions. Trophy-hunting groups got the issue on the ballot just six years after voters approved a measure there, and voters sent a second and consistent measure rebuffing them. California has more people and perhaps as many cougars as any state in the West, but hardly any adverse encounters.

Unfortunately, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission recently approved a ramped-up scheme to slaughter cougars in four so-called “target zones” covering 6,200 square miles, despite overwhelming opposition from the public, state lawmakers, and a broad array of humane and conservation organizations.

Today, especially after the high-profile killing of Cecil, an African lion in Zimbabwe, the public has less of an appetite for trophy hunting than ever. We expect better of our lawmakers and wildlife commissioners than to set loose these trophy hunters.

We can end the era of hate and fear-mongering targeting North American carnivores, and accept their rightful place in their ecosystems. There’s so much negative mythology in circulation about them. Science tells us the animals contribute to ecosystem health and the data show they keep their distance from us. We humans can choose to live with cougars and other predators, without adverse consequences for us.