A decision allowing hunters in Utah to kill 630 mountain lions this year has created an uproar. A hunt approved by the Utah Wildlife Board Aug. 26 allows for the killing of 150 more lions than the state allowed last year, or about one-third of Utah's estimated lion population of 2,000.
decision was not based on science, and it has angered a lot of
people," says Craig Axford of the Utah Cougar Coalition. His group
recently began a petition drive to convince Gov. Mike Leavitt, R,
to reverse the board's decision before the hunt begins in
Axford and some wildlife officials
say the wildlife board was pressured by ranchers, hunters and rural
legislators who dislike any predators and believe mountain lions
are killing too many deer.
"I have to say that
politics have reshaped the philosophy of where we need to be with
cougar management," Division of Wildlife section supervisor Wes
Shields told the Salt Lake Tribune. "We .... have bought off on the
idea that because deer herds are in trouble, we might be able to
assist them in recovering by harvesting more cougars."
State biologists admit they don't have a good
handle on the number of lions in the state, or solid proof that
lions are responsible for the slow rise in deer numbers from the
severe winter of 1992-1993. Weather and habitat conditions, they
say, have probably hurt the deer more than predation from lions.
"But," says Division of Wildlife spokesman
Steven Phillips, "it's a lot easier to deal with mountain lions
than it is to deal with multi-year weather patterns."