Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Consequences of mismanagement at Kofa NWR

mountain lion kofa

This is not my photo, it was sent to me by someone who urged me to post it far and wide, because this is the truth that doesn’t make it into the newspapers.

I debated whether to give a warning in the title of the post, because just about anyone reading this post is going to be as upset by that picture as I am. But he died, hunted by a Arizona Game and Fishing Department employee who used his radio collar to track him. The radio collar, paid for with tax dollars, which he wore for the three months after the AGFD trapped him until his death by the AGFD, was ostensibly attached to this mountain lion for the purpose of scientific study.

Instead, it was used to count the number of animals the mountain lion killed for survival. When the number of sheep he killed was too high, according to the hunters who want the sheep available for humans to kill with guns for the purpose of sport and trophies and bragging rights, then it was determined that this mountain lion was to be punished by death.

The AGFD employee then took a gun and tracked this mountain lion down by using the radio collar that was supposed to be used for scientific research. In what was essentially a canned hunt, this young mountain lion was killed for the sin of eating too many sheep.

And so we have a picture. A picture of a mountain lion, dead, the radio collar that the AGFD used for his canned hunt clearly visible. This is the consequence of mismanagement of a National Wildlife Refuge. This is the consequence of management making decisions with an extremely small subset of the population in mind – hunters.

It will get worse. Mountain lions are not easy to trap to put the collars on them, and so the sheep are being collared instead. This means that the managers of the “refuge” will justify killing every mountain lion without even the weak argument of how many sheep a specific mountain lion has killed. Does it matter? Probably not, because the likelihood of every mountain lion killing at least 2 sheep in 6 months is high. Regardless it is an escalation of the attack on mountain lions, an escalation of the effort to eradicate Kofa of predators. Already there has been a notice that a radio collar accidentally fell off of a second lion, a collar malfunction, supposedly. Call me cynical, but my bet is that they killed the second lion in the same sort of canned hunt, and rather than deal with potential outrage from those of us who care, they conveniently found only the collar.

The president of the United States has decided that these same managers should do everything they can to promote hunting. That means this dead mountain lion is just one in a long list of predators that will share the same fate. It is ignorance at its worst, a complete lack of ethics, and a betrayal of what these people are supposed to be doing – protecting the environment and the wildlife at a refuge that was created for the purpose of being a refuge for wildlife. The refuges have become no better than private hunting grounds for people entertained by killing sentient beings, except these refuges are supported by our tax dollars, and our tourist dollars.

The refuges and the media claim that these refuges couldn’t continue without the revenue from the hunting permits, but this is false. This ignores the millions of dollars in revenue from the many other peaceful visitors to the refuges. Photographers, hikers, tourists, campers.

But I have a feeling this is all a set up. The refuges are under attack on many levels. Hunting is dying in this country, though it is a slow death, long overdue. The powers that be are making noises about trying to encourage more hunters, more killers, but when a CNN article talked about revenue and completely ignored the amount of money non-violent visitors bring in to these refuges, I got a big hint of what is coming.

The military.

The military wants free reign in these protected areas, and one way for them to have that is if management can claim that without hunting license revenues, which are bound to continue falling, they no longer have the money to support a refuge. Refuge status will be taken away, or parts of the refuges will be sold to the military, most likely with no public review or say.

These are the consequences. Death, destruction.

I don’t know what we can do, except write letters and make our voices heard, make their voices heard.

We need to contact our state governors, the Director of the USFWS, and the US Fish and Wildlife Regional Directors, as well as the AZ GFD officials.

Contact information:

  • Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne – http://www.doi.gov/
  • Key DOI officials – http://www.doi.gov/secretary/officials.html
  • Director of the USFWS Dale Hall: dale[underscore]hall [at] fws [dot] com
  • Wildlife Refuge Map (by State): http://www.fws.gov/refuges/refugeLocator.html
  • National Wildlife Refuge System: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/
  • RDTuggle at fws dot gov (Region 2 Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle)
  • Chris_Pease at fws dot gov (Chief NWRS Region 2)
  • Thomas_Harvey at fws dot gov (Refuge Supervisor AZ/NM)
  • Lvoyles at azgfd dot gov (AGFD Region IV Supervisor Larry Voyles)
  • Duane Shroufe (AGFD Director) directorsoffice at azgfd dot gov
  • AGFD Commission directorsoffice at azgfd dot gov
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20 responses to “Consequences of mismanagement at Kofa NWR

  1. Ron September 9, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    I received the photo from a person as part of a public records request (the State counterpart of the Federal Freedom of Information Act; FOIA) initiated when others and I found out about the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s false statement that this young tom killed 2 Kofa NWR bighorn sheep when in fact he killed 1 Kofa bighorn. Two lion-killed Kofa bighorn was the arbitrary and capricious limit set to call this tom an “offending lion” subject to death by a high powered rifle shot cowardly dispatched at close range. Had the Department staff not been intentionally dishonest by falsely stating that he killed 2 Kofa bighorn, then he might still be living and providing valuable desert puma natural history information that is not currently available to make sound cougar management decisions. The photo is authentic and it was taken by AGFD personnel on the morning of Sunday, ‎June ‎03, ‎2007, at 0‏‎6:33:56.

  2. Deb September 12, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for the additional info, Ron. I think the FOIA and public records request are the kinds of things we should be making more use of, for sure.

  3. Ron September 12, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    The public records request (PRR) will increasing become important since the Presidential EO and as State Game and Fish Departments start pushing for principal management authority over all wildlife on all “National” Wildlife Refuges. The PRR is a time-consuming exercise for the requestor and the State. Every pertinent document, photo, CD, digital data, etc. must be provided if legally permissible. We would have never seen the dead cougar photo without the dedicated work by the person who spent days going through 4 boxes of documents, some of it non-relevant material perhaps to “swamp” the reader/requester.

    To demonstrate the disingenuousness of the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) in this case, a member of a national organization, soon after the cougar shooting, asked for the GPS fix/location data for where the collared cougar was killed and the spokesman stated, incredibly, they did not “take” a GPS fix! Clearly, they found the lion by a GPS fix from an airplane and with radio telemetry on the ground so they did have the GPS data from 2 sources; clearly a false statement evident to any slightly reasonable person. Thanks to the PRR we documented this disingenuousness even though it was self-evident by his ridiculous statement. The GPS fix location was a well-known natural spring depicted on all available maps and a place I first visited in 1974. Therefore, I would caution the AGFD and others State agencies not to make obvious false statements, be a little more deceptive, because dedicated people will catch you in a falsehood with an all important public records request that requires the State to release requested information.

  4. Ron October 25, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    I learned officially today that a tom mountain lion was captured and collared last weekend on Kofa NWR. The AGFD said he would be shot after he kills 2 bighorn sheep and once he leaves the sanctuary of Refuge lands. However, hunter-killed bighorn still potentially total up to 13 mortalities in the upcoming December ram hunt. I will likely have another dead collared cougar photo to post for those willing to expose the killing of a wild, free animal that exemplifies what it means to be free in a too-crowded world controlled by human prejudice against natural predators.

  5. emily October 30, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t get how this receives any acceptance. It seems counter to both research (cost:benefit) and hunter (fair chase) ethics at a basic level.

  6. Deb October 30, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Ron, thanks, as always, for keeping us up to date. I’ll post the pictures, though I hate that we can’t seem to do anything to stop it from happening.

    Emily, as far as I can tell, it all comes down to the hunters. The mountain lions kill a variety of animals to survive, including sheep, but the hunters want to kill those sheep instead. Kofa is in an area in arizona that is sensitive to drought, which they have definitely been suffering. And so the sheep population is naturally going to be lower. The predator-prey populations chase each other (when left alone) so there is no chance that the lions would kill off all the sheep, BUT…because there are simply less sheep in difficult years, there are less sheep for the hunters to hunt. The lions are thus competitors, in a sense, and so they must be eliminated. The NWR sees the “entertainment” of hunters as more important than any other consideration (don’t be fooled by the “refuge” part of the name), and they blow off science that points that out.

    So the fact that killing the lions is counter to research doesn’t weigh in. The fact that killing a lion that is wearing a radio collar amounts to a canned hunt simply can’t compete with the driving force, which is the hunters refusing to accept a lowering (let alone elimination) of the number of sheep they can get permits to hunt. Hunters have money, NRA, and other hunters in leadership positions in the AGFD and NWR.

  7. Ron October 30, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    Emily,

    Deb always does a very good job explaining such situations. Since I am definitively not anti-hunting and realize that this site is dedicated principally to animal rights, I appreciate Deb’s open-mindedness with allowing my posts. My information does highlight the wildlife side of the animal rights issue. Many ethical hunters do agree with you that this is not fair chase and they are dismayed, as I am, by the depredation deaths of the collared mountain lions on Kofa NWR. Others and I will vigorously continue to oppose these cougar deaths and there are national cougar organizations who want ethical cougar research where the research subjects are not killed before collecting valuable data for proper predator management. Similar to the many prejudicial biases humans are capable of, the biasedness against predators in general, and cougars specifically, runs deep and is ingrained within jealous, ignorant hunters who are easily outcompeted by a natural predator. However, combining tax dollars from the public with funding from hunting groups, public servant wildlife managers can readily spend thousands of dollars capturing a cougar, install a $4500.00 to $5000.00 satellite GPS collar, and then easily track the lion to any exact location, for the easy kill at close range with a high-powered weapon with a high-powered scope. Therefore, the jealous and incompetent hunters’ bidding is performed for them without them ever leaving the comfort of their couches or setting down their favorite alcoholic beverages that fortify their false macho hunter image.

    As with animal rights issues, the cougar/predator issue will likely never be fully resolved to others and my complete satisfaction. Fortunately, similar to your dedicated advocacies, there will be compromise and more wild and domesticated animals will survive to enrich our lives because of all our efforts.

  8. emily October 31, 2007 at 8:20 am

    I wonder if there is some way to leverage at least some hunters on the issue, most that I have met show utter disgust at the idea of canned hunts, electrofishing, computer assisted hunting, hunting domestic animals and so on as ‘not fair’. It may seem counter-intuitive but the more people lodge a protest, the better?

  9. Deb November 1, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Emily, I’m not sure of an exact answer for you – I can make some guesses as to why hunters in general aren’t as outraged as animal rights people are On the surface this is the kind of killing that goes against what many hunters believe, however Ron knows better than us about the prejudice against predators, which probably accounts for part of it. In addition, this might be seen as acceptable since it is an “official” action by an employee of the AGFD. Plus, they might simply look at the bottomline, which is that less mountain lions equal (so they believe) more bighorn sheep for them to kill.

    But we also have to consider that hunting mountain lions with dogs was only outlawed in Oregon recently, and such hunting is only superficially different than hunting collared mountain lions. (The dogs, used to track and tree the cats, wear radio collars.) However, there are some hunters who are against these hunts, who are against the prejudice against the predators in general. I found an article that is from a hunter’s perspective, and does what I thought was a good job of explaining many of the facets of the issue that they face in Oregon.

    http://www.mountainlion.org/newsroom_article.asp?news_id=693

    Ron might have more to add! But hopefully this helps.

  10. Ron January 11, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Update on the Kofa NWR Mountain Lion Saga:

    A new Southwest AZ National Wildlife Refuge Complex was formed and a new complex manager has been selected. Unlike the past manager, this man has integrity in his character and previous refuge management experience at several refuges. The Kofa NWR mountain lion management plan is the priority management issue for the new manager.

    Collared lions that prey on at least 2 bighorn and then leave the refugium of Kofa NWR boundary will be killed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

    Thank you all for your support with the past Kofa mountain lion issues. Your letters and e-mails definitely helped.

    http://www.fws.gov/news/NewsReleases/showNews.cfm?newsId=F7CE8B38-C167-3861-4F02DFAD68C5D9AB

    Ron
    Friday, January 11, 2008

  11. Deb January 13, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Ron, thanks for the update! I’m glad you are confident with the new manager. Can you explain more about what you know of his stance on the mountain lions?

  12. Ron January 15, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Good Afternoon Debbie,

    All I know for sure now is that lion management is a priority for the new manager. In addition to any lion management plan, there will be an extensive Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) completed for the SW Complex consisting of the 3 refuges, including Kofa NWR. I think that the new manager, Mr. Mitch Ellis, will be fair and transparent with his management decisions and everything that can be open to public comment will be. I will keep you and your readers apprised of opportunities to comment on any new management plans.

    Thank you again Debbie. Your writings within this blog provided an independent perspective to the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge mountain lion issue.

  13. Ron Kearns April 2, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Deb,

    The Arizona Game and Fish Department killed the 2nd collared cougar. The older tom was captured on Kofa NWR and then killed after he left the refuge.

    Another absurd aspect of this killing is that the AGFD is helping to fund a lion scat study that is costing $71,300.00+.

    Therefore, I suggested that the well-educated agency staffs (note I did not say smart), and 1 Ph.D. researcher, consider this “profound” reasoning of mine:

    Live mountain lion = eats = defecates mountain lion scat = scat available for $71,000.00 study

    However:

    Dead mountain lion = no eating = no mountain lion scat defecated = no mountain lion scat to pick through and study = wasted $71,000.00 = Fleecing-of-America-type research = a congressional (investigation).

    Please ask Kofa Refuge Manager Mitch Ellis to stop the AGFD from collaring any more mountain lions on Kofa National Wildlife Refuge because there are likely only 2 cougars left on Kofa NWR and the collared lions will be shot.

    The AGFD will not give us any more information on numbers of lions remaining or simple evidence that the bighorn were actually killed by a lion instead of the possibility that the lion may have just been scavenging an already dead animal. The agency staff is so unethical and dishonest that what they say must be first considered a lie until determined otherwise.

    928-783-7861 ext. 17 mitch_ellis@fws.gov

    Ron

  14. Deb April 2, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I’ve been working on a follow up post after getting your email today. It is so disturbing. I didn’t connect it until you said it in this comment, but it really does seem like this has been an extermination campaign on their part more than anything else. As soon as they had evidence (which I can’t help but to question, all things considered) that there were “5 resident lions” on Kofa, they started killing them off one by one. Clearly the only ones allowed, in AGFD’s mind, to kill the bighorn sheep are humans. Natural predators must thus be executed.

    Thanks for keeping us updated, Ron.

  15. Ron Kearns April 2, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    What bothers me most Deb, is this old tom had lived many years free and wild living an existence evolution allowed him. Then, with a split second pull of a trigger, his wondrous life was over just for fulfilling his ecological niche. I have lived in the same harsh climate as this old tom did, and for over 31 years I have spent many days and nights afield and I love my life and freedom. The AGFD took freedom away for that tom and I got a knot in the pit of my stomach when I heard this news. I tried for over 5 weeks to get information from the AGFD that might have saved this lion’s life, but the Department staff just ignored me and there was simply nothing I could do to help the tom. I was powerless for the first time in my life and I have a kind of emptiness I have also never experienced in my life before. I will do everything ethically and legally I can to ensure that the Department does not kill another Kofa lion.

    Ron

  16. Ron Kearns April 4, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Officials announce killing of mountain lion

    Deb: your comments and those of others might help. You must login to post but at least read the posts and the article if you cannot post. I think that it is important for people back east to let these southwesterners know that people of all lifestyles appreciate wildlife in all parts of the United States.

    A few of the comments are off-base and good solid replies with the utmost of respectful facts and opinion work best (for those like me who are a bit hot under their “own collar” about this cowardly killing of an aged collared tom.

    Thanks,
    Ron

    http://www.yumasun.com/news/killing_40802___article.html/officials_lion.html

  17. Deb April 4, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks Ron. I’ve included both of these in my most recent post about the topic.

    https://invisiblevoices.wordpress.com/2008/04/04/more-mountain-lion-killings-on-kofa-nwr/

    Hopefully we can at least educate the readers on some basic biology!

  18. Ron Kearns April 4, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Thank you Deb. I appreciated the depth of your post.

  19. Frank April 10, 2008 at 9:26 am

    I have a couple questions here.
    1) this cat was collared. had he been a “problem” cat in some way?
    2) If not. why did AZFG take him?

  20. Ron Kearns April 10, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Frank,

    Click on the link Deb provided 2 posts above. She does a good job of explaining all the issues and you can get in-depth information regarding all Kofa NWR related mismanagement issues.

    Fundamentally, the cougars were doing just what cougars must do to fill the ecological niche that evolutionary forces forged for their existence and that of their prey species and other Kofa NWR wildlife.

    Ron Kearns

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