There seems to be a problem with conservation when emotions run high. There are two of these cases running currently, and it matters how we handle things in the future.
I once did a column on mountain lion hunting, especially regarding the mountain lion in California. To give a little back history without neglecting the point in this column, I will keep this part brief.
Decades ago there was a large faction of residents in California that believed the killing, or hunting as someone who enjoys the outdoors puts it, of mountain lion needed to cease. The cougar was a wild animal, beautiful, and not hurting anyone or anything.
Here is the kicker to the story. Everyone jumped on board, as the mountain lion was not walking around the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, or even Sacramento. And where do the majority of people live in California? In big cities such as those. But California is a huge state, and elsewhere the mountain lion was creating a problem. They were killing pets and cattle, and the cattle was and is a huge part of California’s northern economy.
The city dwellers won out and California ceased issuing permits to hunt the cougar. Interestingly enough, the California Department of Wildlife had to begin culling mountain lion as nuisances, and actually were responsible for killing more lions than the state used to issue in total number of permits each year.
The lion also expanded its range in the state and began showing up in places that people did not care to see. A male mountain lion has a large territory, and while it will allow several female lions to overlap the territory, as soon as a male cub is born, the dominate tom will attempt to kill it or scare the mother and cub elsewhere. Therefore, the territory expanded. It is how nature works.
Now, the state is having problems once again with the mountain lion. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife released results of a test in which they dissected and looked at the stomach contents of 83 of 107 lions killed as part of depredation and nuisance permits. Of those, 52% of the mountain lions had domestic animals such as pets and livestock in their stomachs. 18% of the animals were too digested to tell what the contents were, but it is speculated by the department the number would have been roughly 60% of the lions targeted dogs, cats, and other domestic animals as their meals of choice.
The second case gets even stranger. Remember the Cecil the lion incident where the dentist nearly lost his practice due to animal rights activists badgering and picketing him for killing a lion that had been given a name? Get ready for this.
Because of the fallout of the Cecil the lion hunt, hunters did not target the great beasts this year. They avoided hunting lions due to the outsider pressures on the sport. As a result, the lion herd and other species are in greater jeopardy.
The population in the reserve grew to over 500 lions. The large number of lions have caused havoc to the balance of the different species such as giraffes, antelopes, wild dogs, and even cheetahs.
Now, the reserve says it may need to cull as many as 200 of the lions to bring the park back in balance. Officials would rather relocate the king of the park, but it has been stated that there is nowhere in Africa that can hold that quantity or even a fraction of that quantity of the big cats. They even offered a lottery where a prize was to hunt one of the lions, and activists quickly shut it down as well.
Now, they are looking at just killing 200 of the cats and suffering any consequences from peoples’ reactions rather than watch the lion decimate the rest of the animals and ultimately themselves due to the overpopulation.