Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Kofa Mountain Lions – formal scoping period ends 5/24/08

Just a quick reminder that the formal scoping period to write in regarding the Kofa Mountain Lions has a deadline of 5/24/2008, which is this coming Saturday. Please see this earlier post for additional details on all aspects of the Kofa Lions, and this process.

Comments must be submitted in writing by May 24, 2008.
SnailMail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 356 W. 1st St., Yuma, AZ 8536

I got my hands on an e-newsletter for the local hunting group, and in addition to some biological inaccuracies, they encouraged their members to not only write in and support the current “recovery plan” (recovery of the bighorn sheep population – this plan is all about killing the mountain lions, and absolutely not about limiting, let alone canceling, the bighorn sheep hunting permits), but to recommend that the refuge managers target the only known female mountain lion on Kofa.

The newsletter also mourned the fact that the lions are being killed through “administrative action” rather than through sport hunting. They make interesting use of partial facts. Check this out:

It is commonly understood that mountain lions cannot be over harvested through sport hunting and that their numbers are naturally controlled by available prey.

“Cannot be over harvested” is their way of saying “we have no problem with killing all mountain lions”. There are three mountain lions, that’s it. One of the three is doubtful, so there are only two mountain lions for certain. It is clear that the NWR management is in agreement with this local hunting group (and I should specify – not all hunters even agree with this particular hunting group, which has the reputation for wanting refuge land treated like a big game farm, rather than being particularly concerned with the refuge itself) in having a goal of killing all lions.

Yet, in the same sentence, they admit that the number of mountain lions is naturally limited by the number of prey. I mean, duh. This is one of the most elemental aspects of population biology, so it is not new to anyone. I simply found it amusing that they use an argument for there being no “need” of killing mountain lions and attempt to turn it around into a reason to kill mountain lions. If we talk fast enough, I imagine they are saying, maybe no one will notice as we contradict ourselves…

The logic is obvious – if mountain lions are limited by the available prey (which they, and all predators, are), how do you argue that the mountain lions need to be killed in order to preserve (potentially unnaturally high) numbers of sheep? You can’t, not without being dishonest.

There was much that the hunting group didn’t mention, such as:

  • the increase in bighorn sheep numbers before the lions were killed (For absolute accuracy, the first lion was killed in June of 2007, and the population estimate was done in December 2007, showing an increase in sheep numbers from the survey done in 2006. The second lion was killed in April 2008.)
  • the damage the hunters are doing themselves to the prey populations (hunting licenses continue to be sold, belying their concerns as to the lower than average sheep and deer populations)
  • the disturbance of pregnant sheep by the hunters as they prowl through sensitive areas, such as lambing grounds, in search of sheep to kill (the AZGFD themselves admit (Q9) that this “could” cause higher lamb mortality)
  • the fact that the FWS doesn’t actually know at this point whether there are health issues causing or even contributing to the decline in sheep populations (research in progress)
  • the fact that the FWS doesn’t even know what population size they should expect during a drought (5 year research study in progress)
  • the fact that Kofa NWR is in year 16 of a severe drough

Ron wrote a great letter back in October 2007, which is posted on PEER’s website. It is 27 pages, but it is actually a pretty quick read, and it is really amazing to see so many points clearly outlined, and the overall timeline. Ron was a Kofa employee until not long before the lion killings started, and so he has an insider’s view, and a wealth of understanding and information of the overall Kofa situation.

I talk a lot about the biology surrounding this issue, primarily because that is what the refuge officials are required to respond to. The science. I’ve never been one to see the various issues as particularly discreet, they all overlap, and overlap to greater degrees the more I look into them. Environment, climate, animal rights, social justice, sustainability…

And the same is true with the Kofa Lions. The biology backs up the ethics, which is no surprise to me. You can’t “manage” populations of any species for any reason and be doing right by the environment at the same time. If you’re not doing right by the environment, you’re clearly not doing right by the animals either.

Thanks to Ron for keeping me up to date on the issue, thank you Mary for writing already and linking my posts on your blog, thank you Rich because I know you’ll let me nag you into writing a letter, thanks to Elaine and Smite Me! for linking to these posts as well. And thanks to anyone else who writes or has written in. We’re it, for animal rights coverage of this issue, so it really counts, whatever you do.

2 responses to “Kofa Mountain Lions – formal scoping period ends 5/24/08

  1. Ron Kearns May 20, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Deb,

    Thank you again for your interesting and informative perspective.

    I am pleased to see that there are others in the Animal Rights community who are able to take time out of their busy lives to comment during the EA scoping to extend animal rights to a few cougars that deserve the right to live free and wild in a niche evolution allowed. Only man can purposely disrupt those rights of life and freedom. Available habitat exists for cougars and all other wildlife that currently reside on this unique desert wildlife refuge.

    I agree with your stated degrees of environmental overlap; if only the educated agency staffs could acquire that biodiversity vision that is evident if a person reasons beyond the discreteness of big game-only harvest management.

    Thanks to the others, like Deb, who are able to comment during the EA Scoping process.

  2. Deb May 21, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    The more I look into various aspects of the science, the more I’m amazed at the blatant inaccuracies on the AGFD website! I’m not convinced they’ve done any actual research or consultation with known experts at all.

    I only wish I was surprised by this.

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