February 6, 2023

Now Here's A Bunch of Crap!

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This morning USA Today is running a story that is so bad, so biased and full of crap. Please excuse my intelligent use of the English language but crap pretty much is the best descriptive word for what is written.

The article is about a new study just released that supposedly shows that hunting mountain lions has no effect on human-mountain lion encounters. This study might indicate that there is nothing to support such a claim. On the other hand, the study may not show that hunting mountain lions increases human-lion encounters.

The problem with the story is it has its agenda which doesn’t include publishing all the facts or giving anyone a chance to find out information themselves. This is not an opinion piece. It is being published as news. It is stories like this that thousands perhaps millions of people read and are lead to draw conclusions based on incomplete data or data that is manipulated for personal gains.

The article first admits that the study is being done because human-cougar encounters are on the rise. They do let us know who sponsored the study – the Mountain Lion Foundation. The Foundation opposes sport hunting of mountain lions the article says. It isn’t clear whether they support wildlife officials from killing the animals but based on information I have gathered about them, I would seriously doubt it.

The study compared data from 10 states that permit lion hunting with California that doesn’t. Of course we don’t know what the data was that they compared in this article. What did they compare? How was it actually relevent to hunting, populations of both humans and animals and a host of other factors?

When you read this item you are left with one of two choices. You can believe everything that was written including this quote:

“Any state that claims sport hunting is anything more than recreation will have to prove it, because evidence just isn’t there,” foundation President Lynn Sadler says.

At the end of the article the author slips in this quote from a game official in Oregon, a state that allows hunting cougars.

…….Tom Thornton, a state game manager. “Sport hunting slows the rate of population increase, and by having fewer cougars you would expect fewer encounters,” he says.

Your choice is whether to believe what is written in this article as truth. That a study done by a conservation group closely associated with every animal rights, anti-hunting and anti-anything groups, whose main mission is to stop all forms of hunting is non-biased or believe what a person says whose job it is to manage wildlife through science. You decide.

In the meantime, I’ll try to help you out here with some facts so you can decide for yourselves. First, you may visit the Mountain Lion Foundation and read all about their programs, missions and who they support and are associated with. This is important to gain a better understanding of who conducted this study and why.

If you look around you’ll find a press release in pdf about the study. There were two things in this press release that got omitted from the USA Today story. Here’s the first one.

While the study’s author and mountain lion conservation advocates acknowledge this study cannot absolutely “prove” that sport hunting is not an effective conflict-reduction strategy, they argue the evidence certainly forces wildlife agencies to look for proven strategies.

You see this statement, surprisingly taken from a press release written by the Mountain Lion Foundation, doesn’t find its way into the article at USA Today. I guess the author must not consider it to be important.

The other little tidbit that I found interesting was a different quote from what was put in USA Today. In the press release this is what Lynn Sadler, president of MLF, said,

“From this point forward,” says Lynn Sadler, President of the Mountain Lion Foundation, “any state agency that claims sport hunting is anything more than the random shooting of mountain lions for fun will have to prove it.”

The USA Today quote read “recreation” instead of “random shooting of mountain lions for fun”. Why they chose to quote it that way is unexplained unless they got that quote directly from her in an interview. That may very well have happened but nowhere in the article does it state that an interview was conducted.

What is important in this quote is that it reflects highly on the bias and unprofessional press releases being put out by MLF. This is a further indication of the extremism of this organization and their bent on stopping hunting. Did the author of the USA Today article not want to share that bias with its readers?

At least in the press release issued by MLF, they tell you where you can go to get the complete study. It is located at a website called Puma Conservation. It appears that this site is a domain name being used by MLF as a spot to place the study. Could this be an attempt to make readers believe that the Puma Conservation organization is a seperate entity from MLF in hopes of adding more credibility to the study? Perhaps!

If you choose to go there and look at the complete study, you will find that the information being spewed via MLF press releases and the story in USA Today, doesn’t paint the rosy picture they would like you to think it does. I’m not a scientist but I easily could tell that the study does not in anyway prove anything. There are way too many variables not included in the study to prove or disprove whether hunting mountain lions has an effect. Us ignorant lay people only assume that fewer cats would translate into fewer attacks by cats on humans. What do I know?

The other point to be made here is what difference does it make? Yes, some states have used the argument that reducing numbers reduces attacks. Who cares? All states have cougar management plans approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services at one time that are used to manage a specific population range that scientists believe the habitat can support. When numbers exceed those goals, management reduction plans are put in place. One of those plans involves sport hunting. Another involves wildlife officials killing them.

I really don’t understand the reasoning behind the MLF in wasting their money on such a study. Mountain lions are no different than other wild species. There are human-wild animal encounters all the time. The reason for this is varied but the biggest is probably due to man continuing to expand and develop into wild animal habitat. Animals get hungry and they go looking for food. Food is food and once a wild animal discovers an easy meal they will keep coming back.

Whether we like it or not, it is the reality of what we are dealing with. Some animals are going to have to be killed so that the two species can co-exist.

My point is simple. Wildlife experts manage game animals based on the best science available to them. I’m not so naive to think that politics doesn’t play a roll but overall, it is science. States have obligations to provide hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities to its citizens. Whether some group thinks hunting does or doesn’t slow down game encounters I don’t really care. I’ll spend my money elsewhere.

Tom Remington