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Group Called for End to Predator Call Devices to Hunt Lions
Denver, CO. Yesterday, WildEarth Guardians secured a conservation victory when the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously voted to disallow a lion hunter’s proposal to use electronic “predator calls” as a means to lure in and shoot mountain lions.
“Using electronic predator call devices to lure in mountain lions so they could be shot not only frustrated our goals to protect breeding females and their dependent kittens in Colorado, it represented a breach in hunting ethics,” stated Wendy Keefover, Director of Carnivore Protection for WildEarth Guardians.
Predator calls come in many forms, and some simulate deer fawn, elk calves, or other prey species in distress in order to lure in a native carnivore in the range of a human hunter.
Hunters that use predator call devices cannot differentiate the sex of a mountain lion before they shoot. As a result, almost 80% of mountain lions killed in Colorado with non-electronic predator calls have been females, which could result in orphaned kittens that starve and die.
“Protecting breeding female mountain lions and their dependent kittens from sport hunting represents a paramount conservation and ethical concern to WildEarth Guardians, said Keefover. “With the help of houndsmen, we saw a mountain lion hunter education program come to fruition in Colorado and that resulted in a marked decline in the number of females in the hunter kill,” remarked Keefover.
The Colorado lion hunter education program marked the first such program any where when it was enacted in 2005 – because of Guardians’ sustained campaign. Since then, Guardians has also secured mandatory hunter education programs in the States of New Mexico and Montana.
Yesterday, Guardians also argued before the Commission that the use of predator calls is unsporting and unethical. “We do not believe that hunters that use electronic predator calls to hunt mountain lions conduct their hunts using the principle of fair chase, an important ethic most hunters embrace,” Keefover added.
In September, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted to allow the predator call device to go to a “second step” in Colorado’s regulatory review process, before it quashed the petition yesterday after Guardians and another hunting organization raised concerns.
“Not only iconic and beautiful, lions represent a vital piece of Colorado’s natural heritage,” commented Keefover. “Lions modulate deer populations in Colorado so they don’t overbrowse – they even select for diseased animals. Mountain lions make their ecological systems vibrant, diverse, and healthy,” she added.
The Mandatory Hunter Education Program & Conserving Female Cats
In 2005, the Wildlife Commission adopted a voluntary hunter education program, and in 2007, the Commission instituted a mandatory hunter education program, which is designed to protect breeding females and dependent kittens. Available online, the program requires that hunters and outfitters take the test and pass with a score of 80% before receiving a hunting license for mountain lions. Colorado, the first state to institute such a program provided the model to other states including New Mexico and Montana, which have subsequently instituted the program.
The result of the Colorado lion hunter education program: a dramatic decrease in the percentage of females killed in Colorado relative to males. Data from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife show that from 1991 to 2004, the average percent of females in the hunter kill was 43%; from 2005 to 2011, the average percent of females in the hunter kill equals 36%.
On the other hand, the lion kill data in Colorado show that of the 22 lions killed by hunters from 2005 to 2010 using hand held “predator callers”, 17 were female. In other words, 77% of the total lion kill by predator callers involved the take of females. “Clearly, these devices do not allow for the hunters to practice selectivity,” said Keefover. “It may be that female cats are more susceptible to calls as they are continually trying to provision for their kittens,” she said.
WildEarth Guardians has campaigned for the conservation of Colorado’s mountain lions since 2002. As a result, mountain lion conservation has increased in the state. Some notable achievements:
v In 2004, the Division Wildlife produced its first biologically defensible mountain lion management plan for Colorado;
v In 2004, the Wildlife Commission ordered the hire of a carnivore biologist to study mountain lions. In 2005, the Division employed Ken Logan, PhD, a highly credited lion biologist and coauthor of Desert Puma. Dr. Logan is conducting a 10-year study of lions on the Uncompaghre Plateau; and
v In 2004 the Commission ordered a substantial reduction in the lion-hunting quota to a more sustainable level.