Arizona Cougar Shooting Plan Misguided

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Daniel Patterson (520) 906-2159;
Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Arizona Cougar Shooting Plan Misguided

YUMA - Federal and state agencies are on the verge of biological
malpractice in their plans to continue “lethal removals” of a small,
shrinking cougar population based in Arizona’s Kofa National Wildlife
Refuge, according to comments filed by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A pending U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service plan would allow state game agents to shoot radio-collared
mountain lions on the Kofa refuge itself in order to limit predation on
prized bighorn sheep.

The PEER comments, composed with the
assistance of former Kofa Refuge biologist Ron Kearns, maintain that
increased take may completely eliminate the remnant cougar population
on the refuge and may not benefit the bighorn –

  • A
    pending study on the factors affecting the bighorn population will not
    be finished for another year. As a result, there is no scientific basis
    for making management decisions until the study is completed and its
    results analyzed;
  • “In one of the first reported instances of
    a lion having killed a bighorn on the Kofa refuge, the sheep was ill
    and partially blind. The lion may have very well prevented that sick
    bighorn from infecting other sheep. The killing of more lions risks the
    elimination of a significant natural interaction that serves to prevent
    the spread of disease in the bighorn population”; and
  • In
    the absence of maintain lions, other predators, such as coyotes and
    bobcats, may fill the void causing as much and possibly more bighorn
    predation.

“Sterilizing the Kofa wildlife refuge of all
cougars is bad biology and even worse wildlife management,” stated
Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist who helped
broker a moratorium on removal of radio-collared lions. That moratorium
ended this August, allowing elimination of lions linked to bighorn
kills when they leave the refuge. “The Fish & Wildlife Service says
that it depends on sound science but in this instance it is pushing to
act without doing its scientific homework.”

Ironically,
the current dispute arises as the bighorn population is on the rise.
Today’s bighorn population, estimated at 436 animals, is larger than
the estimated population of 390 bighorn recorded in 2006 and of the
estimated 200-375 bighorn reported on the Kofa refuge from 1970-1978.

“Cougars
have an important role to play in the web-of-life and in maintaining
the health of bighorn herds, and they will not survive the feds’
proposed removal policy,” added Patterson. “Until these officials fully
understand the role that predators play in bighorn populations, they
have no business killing and removing them.”

The comment period for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife cougar removal plan ended last Friday, October 2nd.

###

Read the PEER comments

See the Fish & Wildlife Service draft Environmental Assessment

Learn about the cougar kill moratorium

###

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

Share This Article

More in: