23 Feb 2009, 1:21pm
Cougars Deer, Elk, Bison
by admin

Mountain Lion Control in Nevada

The following appeared in the SF Chronicle Sunday:

by Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, February 22, 2009 [here]

Mountain lions vs. deer: In Nevada, deer populations have plummeted from 240,000 to 108,000 in the past 10 years. Scientists attribute the decline largely to mountain lion predation. So Ken Mayer, former big game coordinator in California and now the director of Nevada Department of Wildlife, has ordered a major program to shoot mountain lions.

The intent is not to eliminate predators, Mayer said, but rather to reduce them so deer herds can rebuild. He said the program will be based on wildlife science and the predator-prey relationship.

Some people think that the relationship between mountain lions and deer is self-governing. So when the deer are about wiped out, the mountain lion population then naturally goes down to form a “balance” and the deer herd will bounce back.

That is not what happens. When there are few deer left to eat, the mountain lions then wander into the backyards of homes and ranches and eat whatever they can catch, then return afield to clip off the fawns. Their favorite food other than deer appears to be house cats, but they’ll take dogs, sheep, llamas, calves and about anything else when hungry enough, including people occasionally.

Many wildlife experts believe we need Mayer back in California to do the same thing here. In the past 50 years, the population of deer in California has dropped from an estimated high of 2 million to fewer than 450,000, because of mountain lion predation and habitat loss in the Sierra foothills.

The SF Chron story is a little bit disingenuous. There has been no ban on killing mountain lions in Nevada. The change made by NDOW was to “fulfill the objective harvest.”

The objective harvest has been 349 mountain lions per year. That’s the number of lions that NDOW biologists think necessary to remove to sustain deer populations. However, over the last six years only an average of 160 lions per year were killed. As a result, the lion population has surged and the deer population has crashed.

NDOW Director Ken Mayer would like to see the objective harvest achieved; that is, to make sure that 350 or so lions per year are removed.

Assemblyman Jerry Claborn has proposed a bill that would allow contract hunting of mountain lions to meet the objective harvest goal.

Wildlife Commission hears hunters want for predator control

by Cecil Fredi, president of HUNTER’S ALERT, February 3, 2009 [here]

The old timers turned out in force for the November Wildlife Commission meeting in Las Vegas. The reason for their appearance was a proposal by Assemblyman Jerry Claborn. Assemblyman Claborn, an avid deer hunter, has been attempting to do something about predators for over ten years. He has been very successful in the past and now wants to introduce a bill in the 2009 Legislative session.

He proposed if a hunter or trapper had their proper license and a mountain lion tag, then shot or snared a lion and surrendered the hide and skull to NDOW, the individual would receive $500. This is not to be confused with a bounty as it is contract hunting which will be defined.

Currently, Nevada Department of Wildlife, NDOW, has no quota on mountain lions. In reality, every lion in the state of Nevada could legally be killed. Because of the sheer nature of the mountain lion, this would be totally impossible.

NDOW has in place an objective harvest on mountain lions. This objective harvest was implemented in 1976 and has never been achieved since its inception. From 2002 till 2006, the objective harvest was 349 lions. During this six year period, the average was 160 lions killed. The 189 lions that were not removed killed 9,828 deer, calves or similar sized animals a year. This figure is based on Wildlife Services which does the predator control work for NDOW.

Assemblyman Claborn provided proof that contract hunting worked extremely well in New Mexico. In 2001, the statewide population of Desert bighorn sheep had plummeted to 170 animals. It was so bad that New Mexico listed the Desert bighorn sheep as a state endangered species. By implementing contract hunting, the sheep increased to 400 in 2007 and they removed them from the endangered listing.

Assemblyman Claborn emphasized “This is not a bounty”. A bounty has no limits or quotas. With contract hunting, once the objective harvest of lions has been achieved, the contract becomes null and void and no more money will be available. The money paid out to contract hunting will come from the $3.00 predator fee collected when hunters apply for big game tags. …

An additional note from Hunters’ Alert [here]:

Assemblyman Jerry Claborn has proposed a bill which would fill the objective harvest on mountain lions. From 2002 till 2006, the objective harvest was 349 each year. This number is determined by the NDOW biologists. During this period, the average lion harvest was 160 lions per year. By fulfilling the objective harvest, it will mean there will be an additional 9,828 deer or similar size animals which lions would have killed every year. NDOW is facing financial problems so this will help this agency immensely. If the surplus of 9,828 deer is multiplied by $63.00, the cost of a hunting license and deer tag, that amount is $619,614. Now multiply that figure by three times matching federal funds and the increased amount to NDOW is now $1,857,492. Now that is really good news for deer hunters, sheep hunters and NDOW.

There have been some rumblings from NDOW that if contract hunting is enacted, the objective harvest should be lowered to 306 lions per year. That makes no sense. The objective of 349 lions per year was based on a scientific assessment now a few years old. The lion population has increased since then. Therefore, the objective harvest should also be increased to reduce the lion population to desired levels.

Scientific population management should be the goal. Emotions and politics should not be ignorant of the actual numbers.

The desired population counts are political decisions — no question about that. Those decisions should be informed by scientific census of lion and deer populations. Once the goals are set, then scientific management should be calibrated to achieve those goals. Politics should not move the goalposts willy-nilly.

A better idea would be to engage in contract hunting designed to achieve the desired populations. Follow-up population counts of deer and lions should be made to see if the goals are being met. That’s called monitoring. Then further political decision-making, and changes in the objective harvest if necessary, should be informed by the latest census counts and population change analysis.

Otherwise emotions can cloud judgments, and decision-making will stray from the reality of the situation.

There is a purpose to monitoring. NDOW Commissioners should embrace that purpose and use real numbers collected scientifically to inform their decisions.



web site

leave a comment

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta