Sunday, April 20, 2008

One Step Forward But Two Steps Back

It’s nice but rare when mountain lions get a break, but that is what has just happened for the small band of lions remaining in Arizona’s Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The infamous Arizona Game and Fish Department, which had been abusing the sanctity of the Federal Wildlife Refuge to fit mountain lions with GPS collars then used to pinpoint the lion for execution once they wondered out of the refuge, has agreed to halt its culling while the National Wildlife Refuge finally works out a mountain lion management plan.

I hope this has happened because the management at the refuge, run by the US Fish and Wildlife Services, finally got a backbone. I’d like to think they realized their charter is to manage all wildlife. But I suspect the real reason has more to do with avoiding a public spectacle, if not a downright outcry, at the unethical and irresponsible tact they were taking. Maybe the recent mountain lions kills were enough to get somebody’s political back scratched. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that the attitude of Arizona Game and Fish is biased strongly toward preservation of the bighorn sheep, and that the fate of the mountain lion weighs little on their minds. I suspect there is some political ground they are trying protect, too, since they had been a prime supplier of bighorn sheep to other bighorn sheep recovery efforts. In any case, all you’ve got to do is read their webpage on predation management to see where they are. (Click here.) Frankly, the agency really needs to change its name to the Arizona Bighorn Sheep and Fish department, though I doubt if they’d stand for long with their new acronym (ABS&F).

A week or so go, you probably saw how a mountain lion running free in the Chicago area made the news. None of the articles referred to animal control departments or state wildlife agencies being called in to anesthetize the animal either for relocation or study, so I must assume that the police’s reactions were to shoot first and ask questions later, kinda like AGFD. Indeed, I am not underestimating the threat the puma may have ultimately been to the area’s children; but, in all likelihood, it was a captive release and somewhat used to people and less of a threat that the multitude of shots the police made when trying to kill it. (South Dakota officials, though, are speculating the cat came from the Black Hills.) But then, most people have no experience with mountain lions and know only of them how they are portrayed in the media, and that automatically makes them afraid. That’s too bad. It does the universe a disservice.

I’m beginning to wonder if mountain lions aren’t making a quiet comeback in areas where we typically don’t think of them. I’m not basing that on the Chicago area report, but on two reports of sightings I’ve received from areas in close proximity to Houston. One near Katy was very detailed and led me to believe that the cat might have been a transient on his way east, since there was a ravine in the area that shielded him from a nearby subdivision. The other was from a friend of mine whose family has a farm up near Palestine, and it was a sighting of a lion crossing a field as it followed some deer. I think it’s great if the cats are coming back, but the problem is that, if that is happening, we need to educate a lot more of the everyday populace about the lion’s value and how to act when around them. To promote them as kitty cats will, in the end, do just as much damage as promoting them as opportunistic killers who will kill people on sight. This website is an attempt to do what I can to further that goal; but, to make peaceful coexistence with mountain lions a reality in Texas (or anywhere there is a “shoot ‘em first” mentality), I’m going to need a lot more help.


At 5:14 PM , Anonymous Ron Kearns said...


Thank you for your coverage of Kofa NWR cougars. I anticipate your excellent comments during the EA process regarding cougar management on Kofa NWR. The scoping process should start this month or early May 2008. I will keep your readers apprised of the progressive stages of the EA.

Anyone can contact Southwest Arizona NWR Complex Manager Mitch Ellis to get on any early mailing lists @:


The results of this EA could influence cougar management throughout cougar country from Texas westward.

Ron Kearns
Thursday, April 24, 2008


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