Mountain lion management plan angers conservationists

Rare lions are to be killed to protect rare bighorn sheep.

Ron Kearns, a frequent commentator on this site and retired wildlife biologist of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, was recently interviewed for a story about mountain lion management on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. The refuge has set a policy which requires mountain lions which have killed more than two bighorn sheep in a 6-month period be lethally removed. Meanwhile bighorn hunting is allowed on the refuge.

Mountain lion management plan angers conservationists.



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  1. jon Avatar

    Good article Ken.

    “If there is a population decline in the herd, why, then, are hunters still being allowed to come in a kill rams and mountain lions are being killed for it?” Kearns asked.

    Mountain lions are being killed for trying to survive, but human hunters are still being allowed to come in and kill sheep. There is something definitely wrong with this picture.

    1. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      Nothing like killing predators so people have more to kill. Then they claim they are saving the herds by killing predators.

  2. Jeff Avatar

    Ram harvest provides funding and doesn’t dent the population growth of the herd, in fact it might help the herd grow as there is one less Big mouth to feed when a ram is harvested. Lions are endangered and this type of targeted harvest is ok.

  3. Ryan Avatar


    Lions aren’t endangered, Also the article mentions a take of 15-17 sheep a year, there are only 6 tags this year and I would guess during the previous years. This herd is very vaulable as it has been used for most of the reintroductions across the west.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Maybe I got it wrong, but I thought the problem was the artificial water facilities that were built for the bighorn sheep, and which they refused to use.

    The result was water for more deer, and hence more cougar. The cougar then killed both deer and bighorn.

  5. Jeff Avatar

    Ryan-I meant lions aren’t endangered that is fairly clear in the west.
    Ralph-I knew the guzzlers were part of the issue but I didn’t realize how—thanks for clarifying the point.

  6. Dawn Avatar

    I would disagree on the part of “one less Big mouth to feed”, due to a hunter harvest. Hunters take the top of the gene pool, lions tend to take the animals on the bottom of the gene pool. Seems to me the trophy rams would be of more benefit to a struggling population?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I’m not at all sure that cougar tend to take the animals on bottom of gene pool, although bighorn hunters obviously shoot for the top. Cougar are big enough to take the largest ram. A kill is mostly a matter of the cougar having a favorable position.

      Wolves, on the other hand, which do not prey on bighorn, do take the weaker deer, elk, moose, etc.

    2. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Some of the largest bucks I have ever seen were taken by lions, that includes Mule Deer, Whitetails and Blacktails, lions are not selective they are opportunistic and will take what ever presents itself in a manner they think they can take. I have some buck skulls that I have picked up that I found that from looking at the remains, it was pretty clear they were taken by a lion and a couple of them are record book class animals…

  7. Ron Kearns Avatar
    Ron Kearns

    Ken Cole,

    Thank you for posting the Kofa NWR mountain lion subject. I will try to answer questions that the readers here might have. I added several comments to the Yuma Sun article to expand on some of the statements in the article. The reporter did a very good job; however, as you all know, it is impossible to tackle the entire concerns of a subject in a word count-limited article through discussions over a 30-minute phone interview.

    Ralph, the USFWS did not concentrate on the artificial waterhole issue in the Final EA (FEA). During the early scoping process, a PEER employee and I submitted a FOIA request for the GPS plots derived from the collared lions so we could view the juxtapositions of waterholes in relation to where lions were snared or trapped and the locations of lion-killed bighorn predation sites. The FWS denied our request. The AGFD/FWS have been very disingenuous with the artificial waterhole and mountain lions concerns within Kofa NWR and agency staffs ignore contrary evidence, which is exceptionally unprofessional and unscientific.

    The Wildlife News is replete with the problems associated with wildlife management within our crowded world and ever-decreasing wildlands. Kofa NWR is another example in the long line of complex, multifactorial issues related to wildlife population declines and the associated disputes regarding the causative factors and the appropriate management solutions.

  8. BigSky Avatar

    Killing a few rams out of a population is not going to hurt the population numbers, as in other species the removal of breeding females is what is problematic, particurly in a species with very lopsided male breeding (a few males breed the vast majority of females). Artificial selection for trophy males may eventually have an effect on genetics. Mountain lions aren’t “good” wildlife because they’re a predator and people resent them being managed, and bighorns aren’t “bad” wildlife because a handful of excess males are harvested from a population. There is a lot of money for wildlife conservation hitting the ground generated by hunting licences.

  9. cc Avatar

    This is a very biased article, quoting only Mr. Kearns and lamely referring to a past article where a current biologist was quoted on the topic. It wouldn’t have taken much effort to find out the sheep harvest number mentioned in the article of 15-17 is way off from the actual number of 6 this year. Those objecting to the plan are not offering anything to help the bighorn population. Cancelling the 6 hunting tags does nothing when the lions are killing multiples more. Given that Kofa refuge was established specifically for bighorn sheep and that resident lions are relative newcomers this seems like a reasonable plan to me.

  10. Ron Kearns Avatar
    Ron Kearns


    Please state your full name and I will respond to your inaccurate statements. I prefer not to debate in detail with someone who will not use his or her name.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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