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‘Wildlife not private property of lion, bobcat trophy hunters’

Andrew Carpenter (“Hunting, a valuable tool in managing lions” on May 14) believes Coloradans aren’t smart enough to have an opinion about recreational killing of mountain lions or bobcats in nature.

It’s too “highly technical,” he says.

Actually, it’s not at all complicated. Coloradans are smart and deserve a voice because wildlife is not the private property of lion and bobcat trophy hunters.

It may surprise Carpenter to hear that Coloradans banned the baiting and hunting of bears using dogs in spring when moms have dependent cubs. One of the loudest supporting voices was Tom Beck, our Colorado Division of Wildlife’s bear biologist.

The agency has stated its neutrality on the Cats Aren’t Trophies Measure, noting that its job is to carry out the will of the citizens on these exact issues.

The CATs measure bans the recreational trophy hunting of lions to keep heads and hides, which has nothing to do with modern science-based wildlife management for the benefit of lions.

Colorado’s statute is clear – mountain lion hunting is a “wildlife-related recreational opportunity.”

Carpenter wants us all to believe that lion hunters kill for food, which is absurd and perverse. Lion hunting on any continent is primarily and always for the trophy. It’s similar to African trophy hunting, but the target is the North American lion. Colorado guides are similarly paid thousands of dollars to facilitate slaying a lion for a guaranteed head, hide and the obligatory photo.

Carpenter tells us to respect biology yet fails to provide any.

There is, however, a half-century of peer-reviewed, published science to show us that recreational killing of lions is not managing anything besides sport hunting for a minority view of fun times.

Our best researchers have tested assumed benefits to humans from increased lion-killing. From 1971 through 2023, humans have killed predators to test artificially drawing down lion populations, as well as to test giving us more deer and elk for our freezers, or to test protecting our dogs and our livestock from predation.

Killing has never, ever shown proof of need. In fact, studies show recreational hunting mountain lions increases risk to domestic animals.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports that after killing half the population of mountain lions in Colorado’s Arkansas Valley, the slaughter had no remarkable effect on deer populations.

Researchers for the Hornocker Wildlife Research Institute found that after increased killing of lions, populations rebounded back to nature’s normal.

There is no overpopulation in California, where lions have not been sport hunted for 50 years.

“Anyone familiar with population ecology knows that killing lions for sport is a social decision, based on attitudes and what is considered acceptable as recreation,” explains Rick Hopkins, a lion population ecologist of 45 years in the field.

Last season ending in March, lion hunters killed 500 lions (265 males, 235 females) in the name of sport. These were native cats existing as nature prescribes, and not in conflict with humans.

But you will never hear lion trophy hunters admit the details, including that outfitters charge up to $8,000 and “guarantee” a kill. Packs of dogs wearing GPS collars chase mountain lions up a tree with nowhere to run. This is shooting, not hunting, and disregards ethical hunting principles of “fair chase” in the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

It is undeniable that kittens are orphaned when 47% of lions killed are females and CPW says mothers will leave kittens alone up to 12 days to go find food.

Lion trophy hunting is cruel, inhumane, unsporting and has no future in Colorado, where we respect our wildlife for its value, alive.

Samantha Miller lives in Grand Lake and is Campaign Manager for Cats Aren’t Trophies, a citizen-led effort to ban trophy hunting of mountain lions and fur-trapping of bobcats.