Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Kofa Mountain Lions EA scoping period – deadline extended to June 23

The formal scoping period for the Kofa Mountain Lions Environmental Assessment has been extended from May 24 to June 23, 2008.

The reason for the extension is that some documents had been requested that pertained to the Lions, and were just released. One of these is a Categorical Exclusion that Ron tells me is important because it mentions the Mountain Lions but does not include them in an Action Alternative.

The good news (or bad news, depending on how sick you are of me talking about the lions) is that it gives me more time to nag everyone into writing a letter.

And it gives me more time to do some research. Ron forwarded me a letter that was sent by the Sierra Club’s Outreach Director, and there were several points brought up in that letter that are worth passing on, in her recommended talking points for the letter:

  • Develop a preferred alternative that sustains bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and the full complement of native wildlife species on the KOFA. If bighorn populations are increasing, then no lethal lion control should occur. (If the numbers of bighorn sheep are declining, a thorough analysis is needed. The analysis should question assertions about the population-level impact of mountain lions on bighorn sheep. Obviously, mountain lions kill and eat bighorn sheep, but even the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s biologists have questioned some of the assertions made in the Kofa Mountains Complex Predation Management Plan. (See email from Research Biologist Ted McKinney to Chantal O’Brien, Research Branch Chief, dated July 2, 2007, at 5:48 p.m., in which Mr. McKinney questions making assertions that lion predation can have significant population level impacts:

    “I just reviewed the Kofa Mtns Complex Predation Management Plan. Statement is made in there that several studies have demonstrated that lion predation can have significant population-level impacts. Concerns me somewhat when I see such comments. Note that Sawyer and Lindzey state that NO studies have clearly demonstrated population-level impacts. Our Monograph is the 1st study to address this in the manner suggested by Ballard (in paper cited in the Predator Mgt Plan), and even it suffers from the difficulty in demonstration such impact. Findings are suggestive for several studies, but lack inferential capabilities, and generally show lion kills (frequencies, numbers, difference among specific lions, etc.” )
    • Provide a detailed description of the biology/ecology of mountain lions on the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge and on surrounding lands.
    • Provide a detailed description of the past and present management of mountain lions on the KOFA as well as on surrounding lands.
    • Describe any past and present scientific studies pertaining to mountain lions on the KOFA and surrounding lands, including disclosure and analysis of all of the data collected to date.
    • Describe the relationship between mountain lions and bighorn sheep on the KOFA including, but not limited to, the geographic range of both species, depredation of sheep by lions, criteria used to define a lion depredation, and the justification for past management actions, lethal and non-lethal, taken against lions believed to have depredated sheep.
    • Provide a detailed description of the biology/ecology and status of bighorn sheep, mule deer, other ungulates, and other potential prey of lions on the KOFA and surrounding lands.
    • Provide a detailed description of the relationship between climate and predator/prey dynamics on the KOFA and on surrounding lands.
    • Provide a reasonable range of alternatives and an analysis for lion management in the draft EA as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • Use the best research that is actually associated with mountain lions and bighorn sheep to determine actions.
  • Consider the long-term predator-prey relationship. There is no evidence to suggest that mountain lions are recent arrivals on the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. Mountain lions and bighorn sheep have co-evolved, and mountain lions play an important role in the ecosystem. This should be recognized in any planning and proposed action.
  • Consider that the mere fact that mountain lions kill bighorn sheep does not justify their removal as such predation is entirely natural and other factors play an important role. While the decline in the region’s bighorn sheep population at least temporarily prevents the Arizona Game and Fish Department from using the population as a translocation source, it does not provide reason to engage in a lethal lion control program.
  • An EA should consider all of the factors affecting the decline in bighorn sheep and should not merely focus on mountain lion predation. Furthermore, it should consider the recent increase in population. (The 2007 survey indicated an increase to 460 sheep, up from 390 in 2006. See 2007 Sheep Survey.)
    • Disclose the best available evidence pertaining to the genetic diversity of lions on the KOFA and on surrounding lands compared to other lions in the state and region.
    • Consider the impacts of water catchment construction on the bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and other wildlife species on the Refuge.

Some of these points I’ve brought up in other posts, but I like how the Outreach Director, Sandy Bahr, organized this list, and gave direction on what information would be helpful to provide.

I’m going to be using her list to help focus my own research and link gathering. One of the most interesting parts to me was this, which I think is worth repeating, taken from an email from Research Biologist Ted McKinney to Chantal O’Brien, Research Branch Chief, dated July 2, 2007:


“I just reviewed the Kofa Mtns Complex Predation Management Plan. Statement is made in there that several studies have demonstrated that lion predation can have significant population-level impacts. Concerns me somewhat when I see such comments. Note that Sawyer and Lindzey state that NO studies have clearly demonstrated population-level impacts. Our Monograph is the 1st study to address this in the manner suggested by Ballard (in paper cited in the Predator Mgt Plan), and even it suffers from the difficulty in demonstration such impact. Findings are suggestive for several studies, but lack inferential capabilities, and generally show lion kills (frequencies, numbers, difference among specific lions, etc.” )

I’ve done some preliminary googling on Lindzey, who turns out to be Fred G. Lindzey, who is a puma (aka mountain lion aka cougar) expert, but whose work mostly seems to lurk in science journals that we don’t have easy access to. I did find where he was referenced in a book that I found on google books, “Desert Puma: Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation of an Enduring Carnivore.

I know, you’re all on the edge of your seat wanting to read that one. It does, I believe, have quite a bit of information that backs up the “don’t kill the lions” stance, as well as highlights what appears to be a willful ignorance on the part of the refuge managers when it comes to the actual science they are supposed to be basing their decision on.

I also wanted to take a second to thank Easy Vegan for linking the lion issue in a recent post. Every bit is appreciated!

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4 responses to “Kofa Mountain Lions EA scoping period – deadline extended to June 23

  1. Mary Martin May 23, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for the re-update. I’ll nag people, too.

  2. Cbatarms May 28, 2008 at 8:28 am

    wake up the herd is declining it should be aroung 800 head! We need those sheep to transplant in other areas thoughout the state, Like Push ridge by tucson. We waited too long now they are almost gone. Look at the news in California and new mexico in the last weekws. You question population control? when thet enter school ground, hiking trails and back yards. That’s right it doesn’t effect my condo or daddy’s money I didn’t have to work for. Meet me in the desert and mix cement to save these crestures, we need a balance!! Sheep, lions, deer all together but no one looks at the deer population that has decreased.

  3. Deb May 28, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Mary – thanks!

    Cbatarms: #1 According to Kofa NWR, the herd has increased significantly from 2006-2007. So it is not declining at present.
    http://www.azgfd.gov/artman/publish/printer_691.shtml

    The recently completed survey of desert bighorn sheep populations in southwestern Arizona estimated the population on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Kofa National Wildlife Refuge at 460 sheep. The number is up from the 2006 survey estimate of 390 sheep…

    Let me reiterate – those numbers are straight from AGFD’s survey for Kofa NWR.

    #2 – there has been no study to determine what the herd size can be expected to be in the middle of a decade plus drought. So your “should be 800″ claim is really just your guess, not an actual verified number. (Historical averages mean nothing, when they are not taking severe drought conditions into account. Drought means fewer resources, and no reasonable person would expect a constant population size regardless of diminished resources.)

    #3 Pusch Ridge…interesting that you bring that up. Pusch Ridge is surrounded by an over developed area. The last 10 years alone has seen that area absolutely explode with golf courses, retirement communities, housing developments, constantly putting extreme pressure on the resident wildlife populations. Huge tracts of land have been taken from the wildlife, and so it is absurd to expect that the population size of any wildlife population will do anything other than decrease. Transplanting more individuals to the area is certainly not going to solve the problem of human encroachment.

    #4 I fail to see what point you’re making in bragging about living off your daddy’s money.

  4. Pingback: easyVegan.info » Blog Archive » easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2008-05-24

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