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Cougar Rewilding Foundation VP John Laundre discusses his seminal Yellowstone research.

Since our previous post on the subject, we received a gracious response to our hunting proposal questions from Sam Wilson at Nebraska Game and Parks, including a clarification of  the number of cougars killed in Nebraska for reasons of threat and safety: 19 since 1999. Most of those were cougars wandering into residential neighborhoods, where Nebraska maintains a “zero tolerance” kill policy. We suggested to Mr. Wilson that creating escape routes for the cats and hazing remain far safer protocols than discharging firearms where people live, and offered our first-responder training services.

We included Mr. Wilson’s feedback in our comments to Governor Heinemen, to Nebraska National Forest and Grasslands Supervisor Jane Darnell, and to the Commissioners.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
2200 North 33rd Street
Lincoln, Nebraska 68503

Dear Commissioners,

On behalf of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation’s officers, directors and members, I would like to thank the Commission for this opportunity to comment on the proposed Nebraska Mountain Lion Hunting season.

The revised proposal for taking four cats with a two-female sub quota (18% – 27% of the total population estimate) in the Pine Ridge National Forest with the goal of reducing the population, while instituting an unlimited year-round season for 85% of the rest of the state, is a recipe for increasing the very conflicts the proposal wishes to contain: conflicts with pets, livestock, people and mountain lions.

The Large Carnivore Lab at Washington State University has determined from fifteen years of research that taking more than 14% of a mountain lion population (greater than the average reproduction rate) disrupts mountain lion social order. The safest way to manage any mountain lion population is to leave it alone – mountain lions police themselves – taking problem individuals out at the source: the current Nebraska protocol. Washington State has adopted the Large Carnivore Lab’s recommendations – has adopted peer-reviewed 21st century mountain lion management.

Nebraska Game and Parks’ 2013 Recommendations for Mountain Lion Hunting conclude with this sentence:

“The Commission intends to manage mountain lion populations over time with consideration given to social acceptance, effects on prey populations, depredation on pets and livestock, and human safety.”

  • Public attitude surveys measuring the social acceptance of mountain lions in Nebraska are absent from the Recommendations.
  • Research on the effects of mountain lion predation on prey populations in Nebraska are absent form the Recommendations.
  • Data on mountain lion predation on pets and livestock in Nebraska are absent from the Recommendations.
  • Data on the threat of mountain lions to human safety in Nebraska is absent from the Recommendations.

Absent any examples in the Recommendations of “considerations” informing the proposed mountain lion hunting season, following is our brief review of the relevant research on these subjects:

  • From our survey of public attitude studies in states with established mountain lion populations – including South Dakota and the residents of the Black Hills – the general public demonstrates wide majority support for mountain lion recovery and for not reducing mountain lion numbers.
  • Mountain lion predation is not mentioned in any of the agency’s deer reports as a population factor.
  • Neither Nebraska Game and Parks’ nor the Cougar Network’s data on mountain lion confirmations document a single incident of pet or livestock depredation in Nebraska.
  • There have been no confirmed mountain lion attacks on a person in any of the Prairie mountain lion colonies east of the Rocky Mountains.

Absent such examples from the Recommendations – after twenty years of monitoring mountain lion dispersal/recolonization in Nebraska – begs us to question just when the Commission plans to begin to manage mountain lions based on the “considerations?”

Nebraska is now targeting for reduction a stable (by definition a population with little conflict) and recovering mountain lion population that has conducted itself admirably for a generation.

The Cougar Rewilding Foundation is not opposed to hunting based on sound science. But the hunting proposal for the Pine Ridge National Forest – a national forest owned by every United States taxpayer, not just Nebraskans – ignores both science and experience.

Why mess with a stable population?

The Cougar Rewilding Foundation urges the Commission to reject the Recommendations and adopt a proposal based on the peer-reviewed 14% population take, including cats taken for reasons of threat/safety.

Respectfully submitted,

Christopher Spatz, President
Cougar Rewilding Foundation
Rosendale, NY
www.cougarrewilding.org

Nebraska Game & Parks concludes their 2013 Recommendations for Mountain Lion Hunting with these words:

“The Commission intends to manage mountain lion populations over time with consideration given to social acceptance, effects on prey populations, depredation on pets and livestock, and human safety.”

Public attitude surveys about cougars in Nebraska are absent from the Recommendations. Cougar deer predation data is absent from the Recommendations.  Data on pet and livestock damage from cougars is absent from the Recommendations (there have been no incidents of predation on pets or livestock documented in Nebraska). There are no incidents of a cougar engaged in predation of a person documented in Nebraska (there have been no confirmed human incidents in any of the Prairie cougar colonies east of the Rockies). Absent any examples of conflict in the Recommendations, the Cougar Rewilding Foundation has requested information on all these  stated “considerations,” but Nebraska Game & Parks has provided none. They didn’t even respond.

Absent any examples of conflict in 20 years of peaceful co-existence with cougars, Nebraska is now targeting for reduction a stable (by definition a population of little conflict) and recovering cougar population that has conducted itself admirably for a generation.  Why mess with it? 

Make no mistake, Nebraska Game and Parks are basing their Mountain Lion Hunting Recommendations on fear and prejudice – not experience or science.  

The agency has revised an earlier proposal to take two males or one female from a breeding population of 15-22 cats up to 4 cats with a 2 female sub quota (18% – 27% of the total estimate) in the Pine Ridge National Forest, with the stated aim of reducing the Pine Ridge population, while instituting an unlimited year-round season for 85% of the rest of the state, further reducing chances for cougar dispersal and recolonization eastward.

You know by now that taking more than 14% of a cougar population (average yearly reproduction rate) disrupts cougar social order, increasing the likelihood of the very things the Nebraska proposal wishes to contain: conflicts among pets, livestock, people and cougars. The safest way to manage any cougar population is to leave it alone – cougars police themselves – taking problem individuals out at the source. Several months ago, we sent Nebraska Game & Parks a link to Washington State University’s Effects of Sport Hunting video. They thanked us.

The Cougar Rewilding Foundation is not opposed to hunting based on sound science. But once again, we have a state hunting proposal in a national forest – a national forest owned by every US taxpayer, not just Nebraskans –  that ignores science. We might recommend a reduced quota, but given Game & Park’s bald refusal of the peer-reviewed WSU guidelines to minimize cougar conflicts recently adopted by Washington State, we’re suggesting the Commissioners scrap this proposal and get honest with Nebraskans, rather than sacrifice one cat as a compromise.

The next public hearing will take place Friday July 26th, 2013 in Lincoln.

What you can do:

Write the Governor, the Commission(ers), and the Supervisor of Nebraska’s National Forests by Wednesday, July 24th. The Cougar Fund has provided a fact sheet with talking points, and a sample letter listing addresses to all the relevant officials. 

 

 

Our former intern, current Facebook moderator, and graduate student, Julia Smith, offers her contribution to Midwest carnivore recovery. Congratulations, Julia!

Julia-B-Smith-thesis-final1.pdf

Our former intern and Facebook moderator Julia Smith offers in her master’s thesis her contribution to the recovery of big predators. Congratulations, Julia!

Recolonization of the Midwestern United States by Large Carnivores: Habitat Suitability and Human Dimensions

Living Alongside Wildlife

Ghost of the Appalachians

 

A New Scientist article titled, Scared to Death: How Intimidation Changes Ecosystems, and featuring CRF VP John Laundre’s groundbreaking research on predator ecology, was reprinted by Psychology Today.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Fear and Loathing in YLP

 

Nebraska Hunt on Hold

The decision on a limited hunt proposed for the Pine Ridge National Forest of Nebraska was delayed Friday pending review of public and written comments by Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners. CRF commented questioning whether the proposal to take 2 males and 1 female of an estimated 22 cats was below the 14% take recommended by Washington State’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, who have found that takes above 14% are unsustainable and disrupt cougar social order. CRF also questioned the proposal’s suggestion that the hunt was necessary as a safety measure; leaving a cougar population to police itself, and taking out problem individuals at the source has proven to be the most effective method for keeping pets, livestock, people and cougars safe.

Omaha.com

CHADRON, Neb – Nebraska’s first regulated mountain lion hunting season is on hold.

Read more…

 

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