Tag Archive: cougars in Utah


 

4 ID 64684980 © Maik Brand | Dreamstime 

By Sharon St Joan

 

To read part one first, click here.

 

A fallacy – that killing cougars protects calves

 

Concerning the mortality of young calves, only 1 to 2 percent of these deaths are caused by predation — from all predators, including dogs. All the other calf deaths are caused either by illness or are weather-related. Ranchers are compensated for the loss of their livestock, and non-lethal forms of predator control have been shown to be the most effective response. So there is no reason to kill cougars to protect calves.

 

Just the opposite is true. It has been shown that increased hunting causes more, not fewer, calf deaths.

 

It is, in fact, a grave mistake to increase cougar hunting quotas in the hope of lessening livestock predation. Hunting cougars (and other predators) disrupts their social order. This means that young cougars are separated from their mothers while they are still learning to hunt their natural prey. With fewer adults in the population, hungry adolescent cougars are far more likely to engage in erratic behavior – to attack livestock or to roam near agricultural fields and structures, potentially leading to more human/wildlife conflicts.

 

The higher incidence of livestock deaths noted in certain areas in Utah was most likely directly caused by the increased hunting of predators in recent years. If the hunting quotas are increased again, as is planned, then the greater numbers of cougars hunted will almost certainly lead to even higher livestock deaths in these areas next year and the year after. Like pouring gasoline on a fire – killing more cougars will not work and will only make things worse.

 

5 ID 32644895 © Mazikab | Dreamstime

 

Cougar mothers ought not to be killed

 

When their social order and their habitat are left undisturbed, cougars do not seek out or attack human beings or livestock, and they do not hang around human structures. They prefer living deep in the wilderness, and maintaining wilderness for them to live in is the best way to help both wild lands and ourselves.

 

The lives of individual cougars and their offspring have a value conferred on them by nature. When they are chased with packs of dogs, treed, and then shot, this is inhumane and is not ethical hunting.

 

Both female and male cougars are hunted. From a distance the hunter cannot with any certainty tell male from female. At any time of year, kittens may still be with their mother because they stay with her, learning survival skills, for up to two years.

 

Although, according to Department of Wildlife Resources regulations, killing a mother accompanied by kittens is prohibited, as is killing any adult accompanied by a young cougar, this does nothing to protect very small kittens left in their den, or left to play while their mother goes off to hunt, or kittens which are separated from their mother (and therefore are out of sight) when their mother is fleeing a pack of dogs. About one third of all cougars killed are females, and clearly a great many kittens die as a result.

 

It is a universally accepted norm that female animals with offspring should not be hunted – though, sadly, this basic humane principle is often disregarded. In the case of cougars, wherever any cougar hunting at all is allowed, whatever the season, females as well as males will be killed, and kittens and youngsters not old enough to fend for themselves will inevitably die.

 

Since cougars are not hunted for food, increasing the numbers hunted is for no good reason. Fewer cougars should be hunted, not more.

 

 

No taking into account future threats

 

Without a scientific estimate of the numbers of cougars in Utah, there is no basis for increasing the hunt quotas.

 

The increase is arbitrary, and may be critically harmful to sustaining the cougar population. This is true especially since there has been no taking into account of clear, predictable threats to wild lands, such as the shrinking and chopping up of wild lands and wilderness corridors. Further loss of habitat is likely in the wake of more intense wildfires, possible droughts, more people moving into Utah, and government policies that promote extractive fossil fuel activity, along with the accompanying pollution and habitat deterioration that oil wells, coal, and fracking bring.

 

Not planning for future conditions that are scientifically and statistically probable leaves wildlife populations at risk. Not only will they have to deal with overhunting, but they will have to do this while being exposed to all the other growing threats to wild lands and ecosystems – the harm we as human beings are causing to the earth.

 

Just as we normally plan for any disasters likely to strike, future threats to wildlife should also be taken into account when setting hunting quotas – because they are a foreseeable part of our future.

 

6 ID 39369003 © Belizar | Dreamstime

 

Nature must be left in peace

 

We need to take a new look at wildlife, cougars included, to see them once again as our valued and beautiful fellow beings on this planet, whose presence is a gift, enriching the natural world and our own lives. Let’s let them live in peace.

 

 

 

How you can help

 

Please send an email to help cougars.

 

You may choose one or two of these points below and use your own words. Ask that cougar hunting be reduced, not increased. Please indicate the state and/or country where you live. See the link at the end for the email address.

 

One: Cougars’ lives have an intrinsic value. They are not hunted for food, and hunting them does not provide humans with anything that is actually needed.

 

Two: Overhunting harms the balance of nature.

 

Three: Cougars are beneficial to the ecosystem. A scientific study in Zion National Park demonstrated that where there are cougars, there are abundant deer herds, healthy streams, and a far greater abundance of life forms: three times as many fish, and more saplings, birds, butterflies, frogs, and small mammals.

 

Four: Cougar hunting leads to more deaths of ranchers’ calves. Cougars self-regulate their populations according to availability of food and habitat considerations. Only one to two percent of calf predation can be attributed to predators. Hunting disturbs the cougars’ social order, leading to erratic behavior by young cougars who are then more likely to kill calves.

 

Five: Hunting cougars is inhumane. Chasing cougars with dog packs up a tree and then shooting them is inhumane. Killing females with kittens who will then be left to starve is also inhumane. Because there is no certain way to hunt cougars without killing females that have dependent kittens, hunting cougars is not ethical hunting, and they should not be hunted.

 

Six: Predictable future threats to our wild lands ought to be taken into account when determining cougar hunting quotas.

 

 

Please send an email expressing your views to Dave Black, Chair of the southern Utah RAC region. daveb@racivil.com

 

Or better yet, attend the RAC meeting on August 1, 2017, at 7 pm in Beaver, Utah, at the Beaver High School and speak up for cougars!

 

Information for this was drawn from the HSUS cougar report – State of the Mountain Lion: A Call to End Trophy Hunting of America’s Lion

humanesociety.org/stateofthemountainlion ,

from communications with Kirk Robinson, Executive Director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, and from other sources. Any inaccuracies are mine alone. – Sharon St Joan

 

 

To read the article in BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION 133 (2006) 397–408

Linking a cougar decline trophic cascade, and catastrophic regime shift in Zion National Park by William J. Ripple and Robert L. Beschta, who conducted the cougar study:

http://www.mountainlion.org/Library/Lion_Research/UT-R-Ripple-Beschta-2006-Linking-Cougar-Decline-Trophic-Cascade-Zion-National-Park.pdf

 

To read an article about the Zion cougar study published in Park Science, 4 September, 2015, Impact of a cougar decline on Zion Canyon, Zion National Park, By Betsie Blumberg:

https://www.nature.nps.gov/parkscience/index.cfm?ArticleID=318&ArticleTypeID=28

 

 

Photos:

 Top photo: © Dan Stroik Dreamstime

 Second photo: © Lynn Bystrom | Dreamstime

 Third photo: © Lukas Blazek | Dreamstime

 Fourth photo: © Maik Brand | Dreamstime

 Fifth photo:© Mazikab | Dreamstime

 Sixth photo: © Belizar | Dreamstime

 

© text, parts one and two, Sharon St Joan, 2017

 

1 © Dan Stroik Dreamstime

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

Standing on a rock in the sunlight surveying the lands below or leaping through a rushing stream, cougars, like all wild animals, have a striking, incredible beauty – an intrinsic worth and value as individuals and, collectively, as a species. The value of their lives is their own and is quite independent of their usefulness or benefit to human beings.

 

The natural world is an interwoven net, grown up over many millions of years, in which each species plays an essential role in the health and well-being of the whole. We are part of this net.

 

Extirpating or decimating any natural species harms the ecosystem and adversely impacts the vitality of the whole system.

 

Every year in Utah these beautiful animals, the lions of North America, are targeted for more killing. This year the planned hunting quotas are being raised yet again. For the 2017/2018 season, the proposed target for cougar hunting is 565, up 40 from last year. This does not even count certain areas where there is unlimited cougar hunting.

 

Like all of our fellow beings on the planet, as humans, we do need to use some resources – but, really, cougar hunting, which is mainly trophy hunting, is not a normal use of natural resources. It serves no purpose at all – not even for food.

 

2 ID 29753610 © Lynn Bystrom | Dreamstime

 

Human beings’ use of the earth’s resources to live and thrive ought to be minimal and limited to what is actually needed. When we use more than our fair share, we are harming not just other species, but also ourselves. By using too much, we undermine the whole of nature, and nature is also our own habitat. It is the home where we live, and we cannot continue to live without the natural world. We are dependent on nature and the earth.

 

This core principle applies in a unique way to predators, which are keystone species. Scientific studies have shown that predators are essential to the health of wild lands and wild species. We must stop trying to get rid of them.

 

 

A study on the benefits of cougars

 

A scientific study done by Oregon State University, published in 2006 in the online publication Biological Conservation 133 (2006) 397-408, looked at the impact of cougars in Zion National Park. (Please see the links at the end of part two.)

 

This study uncovered profound, long-term effects following the decline of cougars in Zion.

 

As the numbers of cougars took a downward dip, herds of mule deer no longer kept moving along as they would naturally do in the presence of cougars. Instead, the deer began to spend a lot of time hanging about, congregating in stream beds, browsing on cottonwood and other saplings, and leading a “sedentary” lifestyle. The forest was diminished and the abundance of all wild species: mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and other plant and animal life went into decline. The stream beds were trampled and muddy, and all life near them dwindled.

 

By contrast, in the North Creek area of Zion National Park, where there was far less human intrusion, both the cougars and the deer remained lively and active much as they always had. With far less trampling, streambed erosion and loss of soil were less than half what they were in the rest of Zion. There was an abundance of young cottonwoods, squirrels, butterflies, lizards and water plants. There were three times as many fish found in streams in this area. The wild lands stayed healthy and thriving.

 

All this was thanks to the continued presence of the cougars. Cougars are essential to Utah’s wild lands.

 

3 ID 53530707 © Lukas Blazek | Dreamstime

 

Cougars benefit human beings too

 

A healthy ecosystem does, of course, also benefit human beings. Who would not prefer to be surrounded by wild lands where wildlife are active and in good shape, where lands shine with the natural vitality, health, and the beauty that nature intended?

 

When our wild lands are healthy, we too can breath clean air, drink pure water – our agriculture benefits, and so does our economy – not too mention our own health, peace of mind, and happiness.

 

Predators, including cougars, are keystone species that have been proven to sustain and invigorate the well-being of the environment on which our own lives depend.

 

Yet, paradoxically, we continue to persecute and attempt to eliminate these essential, beneficial predators. Coyotes, wolves, foxes, cougars, bobcats, and other species that belong in nature are systematically targeted, year after year, with increased quotas for hunting and/or trapping.

 

 

Why hunt cougars?

 

The hunting of cougars is not real hunting at all. No one hunts cougars for food.

 

They are hunted for trophies and also because of a mistaken perception that where there are fewer cougars, deer hunting will be better, and ranchers will lose fewer calves to predation. None of these beliefs is true.

 

The head of a cougar is far more beautiful and magnificent on the living animal where it belongs, than it is when it is dead and mounted on a wall.

 

Whether or not one is a deer hunter, we can all appreciate that the health of deer herds is enhanced by cougars and other predators who maintain a dynamic and beneficial relationship with the deer. The natural order of things serves the animals far better than human interference. Cougar populations are self-regulating and do not require human management. Their mating and breeding are determined by the numbers of cougars that the land will hold. Killing cougars does not regulate their population. The availability of food and good habitat does.

 

 Continued in part two (with how to help, sources, and photo credits)…Click here.