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A Win For Wyoming People and Mountain Lions

An intimate portrait of a captive female mountain lion. Photograph by Mark Elbroch / Panthera.
An intimate portrait of a captive female mountain lion. Photograph by Mark Elbroch / Panthera.

I’m thrilled to share that Wyoming legislature voted yesterday in favor of science and to protect the balance of nature on which our state so deeply depends. HB0012, which would have allowed the trapping of mountain lions in Wyoming, failed to pass the House on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 2:23 pm. Thank you to everyone who participated and provided support, through signing petitions, making phone calls, writing letters, or sharing the news.

This bill was introduced to provide “additional tools” to reverse recent mule deer population declines, a proposition lacking any scientific validity that I discuss at length in my last post found here. In truth, this bill was about killing predators rather than hunting for food, in a throwback to the attitudes of a century ago when every predator was labeled “bad” and anything with hooves was considered “good.” Recently, similar bills to permit mountain lion trapping came before the legislatures of New Mexico and Montana. New Mexico passed the bill into law, while Montana defeated it. At this point in time, only Texas and New Mexico allow for the legal trapping of mountain lions. In Texas, mountain lions are considered vermin and the state doesn’t even tally how many are killed each year. Mountain lions also suffer trapping as by-catch in states where trapping of other species is legal. For example, approximately 16% of mountain lions killed by hunters in Nevada show injuries from being caught in traps, likely legally set for bobcats. Importantly, voting down HB0012 maintained protection for the reproductive capital of Wyoming mountain lion populations: female mountain lions with kittens, and the kittens themselves.

House Representative Sam Krone eloquently opposed HB0012 for sportsmen against indiscriminate trapping, followed by Representative Charles Pelkey, who more emphasized the potential consequences of increased trapping on domestic animals and people. In the end, HB0012 did not gain the required 2/3 majority to move it forward.

Every year, visitors from around the globe flock to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, investing millions of dollars in Wyoming communities, in the hopes of glimpsing charismatic apex predators, like the mountain lion. In voting down HB0012, Wyoming voted for sustainable, scientific decision-making for our state and every creature with which we share this precarious and wonderful balance that we call home. In voting against mountain lion trapping, Wyoming chose evidence-based science over old mythology perpetuating fear and persecution of this amazing animal. It made me proud to live in Wyoming.

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