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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nevada's management paradigm for Pumas smacks of the "big cats" being seen as "vermin..................You can hunt Pumas all year in Nevada and while there is a "quota" of how many can be killed, the quota is "never reached", suggesting that the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife has no clue as to how many Pumas roam their state and they have randomly issued a quota which allows a "killing derby" to take place without real life limits.................Claiming 1300- 1400 adult Cats exist across the state, 204 were killed during 2012-13(15% of the alleged population)...............According to the Mountain Lion Foundation,.If IDFG were honest about managing Idaho's mountain lions for sustainability, they would first determine to the best of their ability (using scientifically accepted protocols such as habitat and prey availability, all mortality numbers and other research data) a defensible lion population estimate...........They would then use that number to ascertain whether or not the hunting levels are appropriate for a stable population................Evaluating the 11 Western states known to have breeding Puma populations, during the period running 1992-2001, the Mountain Lion Foundation estimates that Nevada ranked 2nd in reported human caused Puma mortalities-------Hardly a healthy management plan at play in the "Silver State"

Nature Notes: Hunting mountain lions

Nature Notes: Hunting mountain lions

16 hours ago
Nevada’s mountain lion population is doing fine, even though very few people have ever seen one of these elusive cats. The approximate Nevada population estimate of adult lions is 1,360 animals.
Their hunting season runs all year, starting each year on March 1. During the 2012-2013 season, hunters killed 110 lions in the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s eastern region which takes in Elko, White Pine, Lander and Eureka Counties. The USDA Wildlife Services killed 20 lions based on depredation issues and five were killed to protect bighorn sheep.
Three more died as the result of accidental trapping and vehicle collisions.
The result was a total of 133 lions known to be killed in the Eastern Region, compared to a state-wide total of 204 killed.

 Hunting mountain lions requires more effort than hunting deer or elk but getting a hunting permit is much easier. Anyone can buy a tag to take two lions per year, with residents paying $29 and nonresidents paying $104. This allows them to hunt in any management area in Nevada.
Half of the lion hunters are individuals while half are customers of guided hunts. Many of these customers come from out of state or even out of country. Lion hunting could be described as the only “catch and release” hunts. Typically, dogs are used to chase a lion up a tree and keep it there until the hunters arrive. At that point, the hunters could choose to simply watch and photograph the lion or they could decide to continue hunting for another, perhaps larger cat.
Successful hunters must present the hide and skull to an NDOW office within 72 hours of a kill. NDOW personnel attach a seal to the hide and a hide cannot cross state lines without such a seal. A premolar tooth is removed from the skull to help age the lion. Hunters can kill either sex but cannot kill a spotted kitten or a female accompanied by a spotted kitten.
The Eastern Region has a quota of 122 lions. Hunters must call an 800 number before hunting to make sure the season is still open, but the quota is never reached.
The number of lions taken by hunters is very dependent on weather and enough snow cover to help in tracking. This year, with little snow cover, the number killed currently is 57 lions so the yearly take will be much less than last year. During previous years, the hunting take ranged between 55 and 74 lions.


SUMMARY: Mountain Lions in Idaho

Idaho Mountain Lion Habitat and Population Estimates

The state of Idaho encompasses approximately 82,474 square miles (213,607 square km) of land. Of this, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) estimates that 97 percent, or roughly 80,000 square miles (207,199 square km), of the state is potential mountain lion habitat. This habitat estimate might be excessive. Using a Gap habitat analysis map to ascertain the amount of mountain lion habitat in each of Idaho's mountain lion management units (MLMUs), MLF researchers were only able to identify 49,314 square miles (127,722 square km) of potential lion habitat.

Mountain lion populations appear to be distributed throughout most of the state, though their numbers are likely sparse in the open landscape of the Snake River Plain.
Idaho game officials refuse to make any official estimate on the number of lions currently residing within the state. This is hardly remarkable, since a population estimate would raise the possibility of public scrutiny and accompanying criticism if their annual hunting quotas proved to be statistically excessive.
Back in 2008, Steve Nadeau, IDFG's Large Carnivore Manager, made a presentation on the status of Idaho's mountain lions at the Ninth Mountain Lion Workshop (a conference for state game managers). At that time he postulated that "given an estimated harvest rate statewide of approximately 15-20% (estimated to stabilize the population), we would back calculate and estimate a state population of about 2,000-3,000 lions."

While that explanation may sound reasonable, what Mr. Nadeau is essentially saying is that since IDFG wants to believe (without the necessary scientific evidence to back that belief) that Idaho's lion population is "stabilized" they simply took the number of lions killed during a particular hunting season, and arbitrarily assigned a 15 to 20 percent designator to that number which they then used to determine a lion population total that has nothing to do with reality.
If IDFG were honest about managing Idaho's mountain lions for sustainability, then they would first determine to the best of their ability (using scientifically accepted protocols such as habitat and prey availably, all mortality numbers and other research data) a defensible lion population estimate, and then use that number to ascertain whether or not the hunting levels are appropriate for a stable population.

Based on the limited information available, MLF's best guess places Idaho's mountain lion population closer to possibly 2,000 or less.

History of Mountain Lion Management in Idaho

Idaho's Bounty Period

Similar to other western states, mountain lions in Idaho were considered significant threats to livestock and other human interests for most of the 20th Century, and government policy at the time was to remove that threat.

Between 1915 and 1958, Idaho's mountain lions were considered a "bountied animal," and hunters were employed cooperatively by the State, livestock associations, and the Federal Government to kill them. Spotty record keeping during the early part of Idaho's bounty period (1915-1939), makes it impossible to determine exactly how many lions died as a result Idaho's numerous bounty programs, however at least 1,479 lions were turned in for the bounty during the 44-year period with 76 percent of those deaths occurring between 1940 and 1958.

Idaho's Transition Years - 1959 - 1971

In the mid-50s the bounty paid for mountain lions in Idaho dropped from $50 to $25, and subsequently the number of lions killed and turned in for the bounty dropped dramatically. At the same time the killing of lions for recreational purposes was increasing in popularity, and annual lion mortality levels in the '60s regularly reached or exceeded those of the previous decade. Lion mortality levels of this period peaked during the 1971-72 season with 303 reported killed. During this short 13-year period at least 1,849 mountain lions died in Idaho.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Stewardship

Almost sixty years of systematic preemptive removals and unregulated hunting eventually resulted in noticeable declines in Idaho's mountain lion population and its distribution in many of the most popular and accessible hunting areas. Dr. Maurice Hornocker's landmark research in the Big Creek drainage of the Frank Church River of No return Wilderness, coupled with concerns over the sustainability of the species, led to the reclassification of mountain lions in Idaho as a "Big Game Species" by the state legislature I 1972. This classification restricted the hunting of the species to regulated seasons set by IDFG. The following year a mandatory check of sport hunted mountain lions was initiated. In 1975, a hunting tag was required for the first time on mountain lions.

A 1990 Mountain Lion Management Plan by IDFG biologists called for maintaining mountain lion hunting mortality numbers at about 250 animals per year. However, despite the recommendations laid out in this plan, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in the mid-1990's authorized increases in hunting quotas for mountain lions in several regions of the state over concerns that elk and deer populations were below management goals. The Commission continued to increase the quota statewide in the late 1990s, particularly in those areas where mountain lions were claimed to be restricting growth of deer and elk populations. In 1999, the Commission adopted the state's first predator control policy.

In 2003, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game completed a Mountain Lion Management Plan which established the following goals:
Maintain mountain lion populations in Idaho at levels sufficient to assure their future recreational, ecological, intrinsic, scientific and educational values, and to limit conflicts with human enterprise and values;
  1. Maintain a diversity of sport harvest opportunities for mountain lion;
  2. Be responsive to human conflicts, livestock depredations, and prey population objectives; and
  3. Research and develop better mountain lion population-monitoring tools.
This particular Management Plan also stated that Idaho has the most liberal mountain lion hunting guidelines in the West. According to the plan, all of the U.S. states and Canadian Provinces surrounding Idaho have "more conservative seasons than Idaho. "This will continue to focus attention on Idaho's mountain lion population because of our long and comparatively unrestricted seasons."

Human-Caused Mountain Lion Mortalities in Idaho

Since 1918 (the first year data is available) at least 18,276 mountain lions have been reported killed by humans in Idaho. Over 82 percent (approximately 15,000) of these mortalities occurred after mountain lions were classified as game animals in 1972. A few years back MLF researchers reviewed lion mortality data in eleven western states in an effort to determine where the highest concentrations of killings were taking place. During the ten-year study period (1992-2001), human-caused mountain lion mortalities steadily increased from 388 reported in 1992 to a peak of 796 in 1997 before steadying out and dropping slightly to 672 in 2001.
Based on MLF's mortality density model, Idaho(—)with an annual average of 613 reported mountain lion deaths during this time period(—)averages 1.24 mountain lions reported killed by humans for every 100 square miles of habitat. The study average is 0.65. Using the study's mortality ranking system, Idaho ranked 2nd among the 11 study states in reported human-caused mountain lion mortalities.

Idaho's Mountain Lion Mortality Hot Spots

Using the study's mortality ranking system, Idaho's top five Mountain Lion Management Units (MLMU) were Palouse-Dworshak, Elk City, Panhandle, Oakley, and Lolo. The first four of these were also listed in the study's ranking of the top 15 mountain lion mortality hot spots. Study-wide they rank 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 11th respectively.
From 1997 to 2001, these MLMUs accounted for 1,799 human-caused mountain lion mortalities. During this time period, these MLMUs were responsible for 50 percent of all human-caused mountain lion mortalities while encompassing only 30 percent of Idaho's mountain lion habitat.
The Palouse-Dworshak MLMU was Idaho's, as well as the West's, number one killing field with an average mortality density rating of 3.2. From 1997 to 2001, the Palouse-Dworshak MLMU averaged 72 human-caused mountain lion mortalities per year and accounted for 10 percent of all the state's human-caused mountain lion mortalities.

Mountain Lions and the Idaho Fish and Game Commission

Much of the attention on management of mountain lions in Idaho has centered on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Over the years, the Commission has been roundly criticized by conservationists, wildlife biologists, and even IDFG personnel, for politicizing decisions about conservation and management of mountain lions and other wildlife in the state. After retiring from IDFG in 2001, 29-year career veteran Conservation Officer Lee Frost lamented that "Right now, the commission is out of control on the predator issue. They, for whatever reason, have decided to manage for several species at the expense of predators. It's not healthy for the department, the people or the resource." The Commissions political decision making process, he argued, trumped and was frequently at odds with the conclusions of IDFG biologists. Notably, he stated that IDFG "hasn't managed wildlife, per se. We've manipulated it. If we were managing it, we'd spend our money on improving habitat. We're manipulating for revenue." Frost lamented, "We've lost a lot of good people who won't compromise good, sound science for politics."
In 2002, IDFG director Ron Sando was forced to resign after he refused to retract citations given to a rancher who killed three mountain lions without apparent due cause. Sando stated in an email to IDFG employees that "philosophical differences have become impossible to overcome." The day of his resignation, the Commission reopened the mountain lion season in eastern Idaho and increased the quota on female lions above those recommended by IDFG biologists.

Idaho Mountain Lions and Out-Of-State Influences

Criticisms of how mountain lions are managed in Idaho have not been confined to conservation groups and biologists. Fourth generation Idahoan and mountain lion hunter Ken Hoffman says he has observed a significant decline in mountain lions in the Garden Valley area of south-central Idaho largely because of too many hunters and inflated hunting quotas. "Now that running hounds is illegal in Washington, Oregon and California, there are literally hundreds of people who have moved here to run dogs on mountain lions and black bears," says Hoffman. "There used to be about 100 people in our hound club. Now there's over 300." The increase in quotas, Hoffman argues, has been provided to satisfy the large number of outfitters in the area who provide mountain lion hunts to out-of-state hunters (An outfitter can average $3,000 to $5,000 dollars per person for an outfitted and guided mountain lion hunt).
On a side note: in the winter of 2011, Dan Richards, President of the California Fish and Game Commission accepted a free guided lion hunt in Idaho and posted a picture of him holding his "trophy" lion on the web. An outcry was made by enraged California citizens, and several members of the California legislature tried to get Mr. Richards to resign from the Commission. When he refused, several legislative bills were passed changing how California appoints members and elects officers to its game commission.

Mountain Lions and Idaho's Elk Herds

In 2001, as a result of Idaho Fish and Game Commission directives, Wildlife Services, a program of the US Department of Agriculture, proposed to control mountain lions in the Clearwater Region of the state; ostensibly to see what effect it would have on elk populations. Widespread public opposition and threats of litigation by conservation groups stopped the project before it began. However, the reduction of the mountain lion population in this region was still undertaken by increasing the local hunting quotas. Faced with arguments that changes in habitat played a critical role in declining ungulate populations, then IDFG Wildlife Chief Steve Huffaker, stated "We don't own or manage habitat. The only thing we can do something about is predation."
Dr. Howard Quigley, who has studied mountain lions for several decades, argued that "When elk herds go down our immediate response is to go out and round up the usual suspects. Those tend to be the predators." "Across the West, commissions are wrestling with this and really turning back some of the advances we've made in managing the cougars," he adds. "There have been significant increases in hunting quotas, especially in those areas where deer and elk populations have declined."
According to Lynn Fritchman, long-time Idaho resident, hunter, and conservationist, "While Idaho's lion population is in no immediate danger of elimination, the excessively high quotas, in some cases no quotas, and lengthened seasons, based to a large extent on anecdotal evidence of predation on ungulates, does not bode well for the species. Habitat degradation and actual loss thereof are insufficiently considered when assessing declining elk herds."
1915 - 2011
TOTAL 18,577
1915 to 1958 -- Bounty Period1,479
1959 to 1971 -- Transition Era1,849
1972 to 2011 -- IDFG's Stewardship Period - The "Protected" Years14,948

Last Update: February 14, 2012


Mark LaRoux said...

Just a couple of ncomments:
1. To my knowledge, a mountain lion has never attacked a human after it was treed and then descended (unprovoked). Anyone know of any stats on this? I'm sure someone could offer anecdotal evidence, but I'm curious if an attack has been documented.
2. Though Idaho seems to be 'backwards' in their predator philosophy, at least they are collecting all of the West's 'strange wildlife fetishes' in one place, rather than spreading them out everywhere. The stranger one state gets actually helps voters in neighboring states see how odd some legislatures behave.

Anonymous said...

I have read many, many hunting accounts of cougars with hounds--never came across one where a treed lion attacked the humans. Lion hunters tend to be quite contemptuous of cougars being "dangerous", in fact, only worrying about their hounds getting mauled in a fight, not themselves. I have read where the rare hunter has gotten a few scratches when a cougar, trying to bolt past them, inadvertently scratched them while running over them in trying to escape! The HOUNDS have a lot to do with that, I think, as cougars seem to be particularly sensitive to barking dogs, and a pack of hounds is absolutely deafening up close! Hard to even think straight with all the noise! Of course there HAVE been quite a few unprovoked attacks on humans in recent years, usually in areas where residences abut cougar habitat, and the big cats get habituated to humans and used to hunting in almost suburban surroundings. And people not knowing how to act in large predator territory--like jogging with head phones on on wilderness trails, totally oblivious of their surroundings, and looking for all the world like some crippled prey thing trying to escape! What cat can resist that?.....L.B.

Rick Meril said...

Mark and L.B................

thanks for reinforcing how treed Pumas are not the threat to humans as many writers and hunters make out them to be..........The whole idea of hounding to kill a Puma makes a mockery of the American Wildlife Paradigm of Fair Chase

Anonymous said...

I am a great trailhound aficionado(I have an old Bluetick myself now, and my VERY old Black-And-Tan just passed away this fall at 16 yrs. old). Many houndsmen DON"T shoot everything they tree(I never shoot ANYTHING, and wouldn't unless I was very hungry!), and I've heard of a few cougar hunters(with hounds) that are satisfied with a photo. And Lion-trained hounds have helped much in studies done on cougars, to help learn about and preserve and protect them. That's just it when hunting animals that will tree with hounds, you don't HAVE to kill them! I learned A LOT about local wildlife following my hounds, and listening to "hound music", so I did want to get that perspective mentioned here......L. B.

Rick Meril said...

L.B...............Point acknowledged and agreed with!