For the week of February 3, 1999  thru February 9, 1999  

Hunt the mountain lions

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game should open a limited hunting season on mountain lions in the Wood River Valley.

Big cats are prowling a Hailey neighborhood. Seven or eight mountain lions have taken up residence and reportedly have helped themselves to a number of domestic cats.

Normally, mountain lions are highly reclusive and nocturnal. Residents and department officials are worried about the increasingly high profile of the Hailey lions, which have become habituated to the presence of human beings..

The cats have not been hunted in the valley for many years. Their numbers have grown and sightings have become common. For wild mountain lions, losing the fear of humans is bad news for them and their neighbors.

It may come as a surprise to some people, but humans are not always at the top of the food chain. It’s right to be worried. This is not "The Lion King." Predators will eat.

Mountain lions in a dense neighborhood threaten more than Fluffy and Fido. They are big, they are strong and they can be deadly. Small children appeal to their predatory nature. When a mountain lion sees a small child, its stalking switch goes on autopilot. Attacks are rare, but not unknown.

Hunting would kill some of the cats and restore a healthy fear of humans.

There is no doubt some will object to hunting the lions, preferring instead to try to tranquilize and remove them, or do nothing and hope they will go away on their own.

Tranquilization isn’t foolproof. Neither is relocation. Animals sometimes die as a result of the side effects of tranquilization and the rigors of relocation. Further, there is no guarantee that an animal will survive in another location. It can just as easily die of starvation or be killed by another stronger predator whose territory has been invaded.

In many ways, death from a rifle bullet is more merciful.

Also, there’s always the chance the lions may return, drawn by the abundant easy pickings provided by domestic pets.

Relocation is an out-of-sight out-of-mind solution that encourages the illusion that humans are living in harmony with nature. We’re not. There are too many people in the valley occupying too much of what used to be wildlife habitat for that to be true.

Doing nothing is not an option. Mountain lions are magnificent beasts, but they cannot coexist in subdivisions. We should not wait until a kid becomes cat food before doing something.

It’s time to hunt the mountain lions.


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