Wolves Protected, Could Lions Be Next?

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy sided with numerous conservation groups and upheld the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when he ruled that the previous February 2008 delisting of the gray wolf was invalid. By reinstating the species’ protection he upheld the principles that wildlife management should be based on science rather than politics and opportunities for sport hunting. More specifically, his decision points out that under the ESA, a listed species is entitled to protection throughout its entire range and cannot be divided into smaller populations for management. Previously, Montana and Idaho claimed their individual states had enough wolves and so they began trophy hunting seasons to allow residents to kill the canines for fun. However, because wolves were not doing well in the rest of their range, these hunts were adding significant pressure to the population as a whole and preventing a full recovery of the species. Sound familiar? The same issue is being debated in mountain lion management. Western states claim they have plenty of lions and are killing them off at an exceeding rate, while Midwest and eastern states have yet to see lions repopulate the eastern half (about 1 billion acres) of their historic range. By persecuting the species so heavily in the West, lions may never recolonize the remaining 34 states where they were exterminated by ranchers and hunters. Perhaps Judge Molloy’s ruling can open some eyes to a broad-scale mountain lion management plan that looks at the entire country rather than each individual state or a specific town’s game management unit……Mountain Lion Foundation


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