Bagged lions, fewer bighorns


As discussed by Frank Carroll (“We’re letting another predator go down,” HCN, 6/22/15), many Western states appear to have a war on mountain lions. In Arizona, the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, a trophy ram hunting group, and the state Department of Game and Fish have cooperated on multiple bag limits, which allow a hunter to kill more than one lion per year, in an attempt to reduce lion numbers. In Aravaipa Canyon, Arizona, about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, Game and Fish established a bag limit of 20 lions per year in 2011, while the bighorn group has paid a bounty hunter to kill at least 10 lions per year. This resulted in at least 43 lions killed over the three years from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2014.

Did this slaughter have an impact on the Aravaipa bighorn sheep population? In the two most recent surveys before the multiple bag limits, Game and Fish observed an average of 84 total sheep, of which 26 were rams. In surveys from the three subsequent years, the agency observed an average of 52 total sheep (38 percent less), of which only 12 were rams. In other words, this mass killing of 43 lions appears to be associated with a decline in sheep, not the increase these groups had wished for.

Phil Hedrick
Winkelman, Arizona