Arizona Game and Fish: confusing and error-filled statements about bighorn and desert cougars at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
If you are not familiar with Kofa, it is huge, almost 700,000 acres.
However, the bighorn have been struggling there, but their numbers are now increasing, a fact the AZ F & G ignored as they announced, but may not honor, a one-year moratorium on removal of desert cougars in the area (perhaps 3 are left).
From PEER. Arizona Game Agency Scapegoats Cougars For Bighorn Travails
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
7 Responses to Arizona Game and Fish: confusing and error-filled statements about bighorn and desert cougars at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
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It’s interesting that they started this “experiment” to remove mt. lions from the ecosystems where bighorn sheep were struggling about seven years ago. I, along with many conservation organizations and even government wildlife biologists from the US Dept. of Fish and Wildlife spoke against this junk science at the “public comment” meeting. Every possible scenario of ecological harm was brought to light in this meeting. The only people who supported the removal of lions were the Arizona Bighorn Sheep Society, and they really didn’t support it with science, just a few “Hell yeah, git rid of ’em” speeches. It goes without saying that most Western Game and Fish Dept. are pretty much owned politically by ag interests, ranchers, and hunting organizations. Any target they don’t want around will be gone. Ranchers don’t care about Bighorns because they don’t compete with them for forage, so they make a nice rallying point, especially when you can use them as an excuse to kill more lions.
On a related note, I think Az Game and Fish has driven our black bear numbers WAY down by allowing too many in their quotas and blaming the low population on drought. There is nobody to speak up for predators because most hunters don’t understand ecology and are happy as long as the departments let them hunt. Bear and lion hunters will hunt until they are gone (or almost)…they’ve done it before in history. Whatever happened to the conservation-minded hunter and managing for the public good?
Also, what’s happening with the Refuge. The laws under which the National Wildlife Refuge System operate give the feds, in this case the USFWS, the authority to regulate state hunting of wildlife on the Refuge.
Well, politics is happening, but activists in AZ should be able to take this to federal court.
Good question, Robert. From what I understand Game and Fish actually can land aircraft in wilderness areas to kill and keep tabs on lions and/or count sheep. I believe they received permission from the government (I’m sure that was difficult within the Bush Admin.) to kill lions within the Refuge since the states “manage” the wildlife, not the refuge. The Department’s own scientists disagreed with the science, so it had to rub some of them the wrong way to see that access granted!
Be aware that all widlife numbers on Kofa are influenced by numerous artificial water holes. The Kofa website says:
“Water is always scarce in a desert. Natural water sources are highly variable and may not last until seasonal changes can replenish the supply. By enlarging natural water holes, shading them to reduce evaporation, and blasting artificial basins in areas previously without a water supply, refuge managers have greatly increased the availability and reliability of water.”
Kofa is gorgeous and relatively wild, a surrelistic desert landscape. It’s one of the few cattle-free chunks of public land in Arizona.
Following up on Dave’s comment. . .
So did the bighorn sheep numbers decline as the result of the drought?
Ralph, it was stated many times by the US F&W guys that most of the bighorns were dying of disease (passed from domestic sheep) and drought or lack of forage, therefore their reproduction was down. Interesting point that since the drought was distressing the animals, Arizona game and fish chose to remove the lions, but not the domestic sheep which were passing the disease. (The usf&w guys also pointed out the folly of this at the public comment period) Which do you think is more dangerous to a population, disease or a predator?
Sorry, I guess it should be noted that most of this meeting was directed at the first appearance of the policy, dealing with the areas North of the Salt river which were grazed with sheep. I don’t think the Kofa’s have domestic sheep, but it wouldn’t surprise me.