Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Kofa NWR Mountain Lions: 1 year moratorium extended

It has been a while since I’ve written about the Kofa NWR Mountain Lions. There has been some recent activity in the news with regards to the lions, because a one-year moratorium on killing the lions on the Kofa NWR expired recently, and was extended for an additional 3.5 months while the Environmental Assessment gets closer to making their conclusions.

A recent article in the Yuma Sun does a good job of being pretty balanced about the issue. The Yuma Sun is the local paper for the area that the Kofa NWR is located in. Going to the article and “recommending” it will help the article move up to the front of the paper, which will get the issue in front of more people. You can also register and leave a comment, if you so desire. The comments are remarkably pro-lion so far.

The moratorium was imposed last year by state and federal officials, days after the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) threatened to go to court unless state agents stopped killing radio/GPS-collared mountain lions on the federal lands surrounding the refuge.

“While the short extension is welcome, Arizona Game and Fish still has a short-sighted shoot first, plan later posture, and appears to be demanding a national wildlife refuge be run as a state game farm,” said Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist who helped broker last year’s moratorium. “By our reading of the law, state gunners cannot come onto a national refuge and kill wildlife without the permission of the refuge manager – who cannot make that call until the required environmental assessments are completed.”

Despite the urging of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which operates the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, and a joint request from conservation groups, the commission only extended the moratorium for three months.

In addition, the commission added a caveat that one radio-collared lion may be killed before July 31 if it is linked with bighorn predation and leaves the refuge.

A PEER article has more information, and doesn’t pull its punches.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has extended a moratorium on shooting GPS-collared Kofa mountain lions crossing the boundary of Kofa National Wildlife Refuge until July 31, 2009, after which the big cats may be wiped out of this sanctuary. Conservation groups are protesting this too short reprieve and planning legal action.

The official news release from the AZGFD does a bit of sanitizing of the issue (they “self-imposed” a moratorium, but only after they were threatened with lawsuits), and fails to discuss the ethics of using radio collars to track and kill the lions that they arbitrarily decide are “offending.” The radio collars were supposed to be part of a program to learn about the lions, not to kill them. That is our tax dollars being wasted!

— As part of its continued efforts to restore the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge’s (NWR) struggling desert bighorn sheep herd, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted today, at its regularly scheduled meeting, to extend through July 31 the Department’s self-imposed moratorium on lethally removing offending lions captured and collared on the Refuge. As defined by the 2007 Kofa Mountains Predation Management Plan, an offending lion is one that kills at least two bighorn sheep within a 6-month period.

I’ve written many posts on these lions.

Ron Kearns, a former Kofa NWR employee, does a good job of keeping me updated on the latest happenings.

The Kofa Lions have become a special interest of mine, but what is clear when I look at the Kofa Lions’ situation specifically is that the pattern followed is distressingly common. Whether it is lions or deer, ducks, mute swans, wolves, seals, or even wild horses and burros, the state and federal agencies employ weak logic and meager science to justify decimating a population of animals. That’s “management” on “refuges”. Ethics are never considered. From American Herds:

Currently, Arizona is home to almost 7,000 bighorn and 35,000 elk with pronghorn antelope and mule deer populations so numerous, they aren’t even bothering to report them. Meanwhile, Arizona’s wild burro populations, the last outpost in the entire Southwest where herd numbers are still considered remotely viable, have been capped at a measly 1,436. As for wild horses, only 240 are allowed in Arizona before removals are schedules and those numbers include the foals!

AZGF has also put out a series of videos promoting their big game species and coincidentally, one highlighting the “problems of feral burros”. In their feral burro expose, they describe in great detail how the burros threaten bighorn and mule deer by eating grasses, how the way they consume forage kills plants and how wild burros in Alamo have been found stripping bark off of cottonwood trees – complete with graphic images of exposed trunks and teeth marks to prove their point.

In yet another coincidence, the Alamo area where AZGFD is blaming wild burros for bark stripping, the area also touts a small population of elk, which are well known for their bark stripping tree attacks as well as wallowing in water and destroying riparian areas.

If you were to take the time to watch all AZGFD big game video’s, it’s hard not to notice how they aren’t concerned about the effects of grass consumption to bighorn and mule deer from the 35,000 elk roaming the state, only how much the 1,436 wild burros consume.

Nature is remarkably good at self-regulating. It is human nature that needs to be managed.


2 responses to “Kofa NWR Mountain Lions: 1 year moratorium extended

  1. Ron Kearns April 29, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Good Evening Deb,

    Thank you for your perspective on Kofa lions and for adding your comments at the Yuma Sun. You do add an important “voice for the voiceless” mountain lions; those secretive, quite, ‘ghost cat’ denizens of Kofa NWR, one of the few remaining rugged wildlands within the lower 48-States.

  2. Mary Martin May 2, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks for the update. We certainly are a peculiar species, justifying whatever we want to do no matter how irrational it is.

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