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Landmark Bill to Ban Trophy Hunting of Colorado’s Wildcats

This effort is based on scientific data and significant public support.

Four Colorado lawmakers, Senators Sonya Jaquez Lewis and Joann Ginal and Representatives Judy Amabile and Monica Duran, last week introduced a landmark bill (Colorado SB22-031) to stop the trophy hunting and trapping of Colorado’s three beloved and ecologically important wildcats: mountain lions, bobcats, and should they be delisted, Canada lynx.

This groundbreaking legislation is long overdue. Every year in Colorado, trophy hunters kill about 2,000 bobcats and 500 mountain lions. Mountain lions are hounded by packs of radio-collared dogs, while most bobcats are trapped and then killed in myriad ways. Yet, in multiple polls and surveys, Coloradoans and other Americans have expressed their opposition to the cruelties of trophy hunting:

69 percent oppose the recreational hunting of mountain lions—Remington Research (July 2020)

72 percent oppose the trophy hunting of mountain lions—Remington Research (December 2020)

71 percent oppose the trophy hunting or trapping of bobcats—Remington Research (December 2020)

62 percent support legislation to end the trophy hunting and trapping of mountain lions and bobcats—Remington Research (January 2021)

76 percent oppose trophy hunting with majorities across all party lines—Remington Research (January 2022)

Even a 2019 poll from the pro-hunting groups, National Shooting Sports Foundation and Responsive Management, found similar results: 66 percent of Americans oppose hunting animals for a trophy (71 percent of Westerners) and 65 percent of all Westerners oppose trapping for recreation, 64 percent oppose it for fur clothing, and 58 percent oppose it to make money.

Trophy hunting is the killing of an animal so that the smiling hunter can pose with their weapon and the animal’s dead body for a portrait—usually for social media, only later to have the animal’s body or its parts arrayed in a symbolic display “proving” one’s virility, wealth and hunting prowess. Trophy hunting highly sentient beings like mountain lions and bobcats profoundly disrupts their lives and results in additional mortalities—usually to kittens—that agencies like the Colorado Parks and Wildlife fail to consider.

For instance, in groups of mountain lions who are not persecuted by trophy hunters or predator control agents, males protect their females and kittens from all other males. In return, female mountain lions provide sustenance to their kittens and the males. This system of reciprocity protects the social dynamics of family groups of mountain lions.

However, the constant trophy hunting of mountain lions such as in Colorado, including in historically high numbers, results in the losses of mature male lions and exposes his females and kittens due to strife from immigrating male lions resulting in kitten mortality. Or if the female is killed, leaving her kittens to die from starvation. Last week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials killed a starving kitten who accidentally wandered into a ski lodge in Vail. We don’t know the fate of the kitten’s mother, but it could have been killed by a trophy hunter or rancher. And in 2019, a jogger killed another starving kitten, after it attacked him. CPW data show that three female mountain lions had recently died in the vicinity, and this leaves orphaned mountain lion kittens to die alone.

Ironically, the random trophy hunting of mountain lions increases human and livestock conflicts in studies conducted in the U.S. and in Canada. Yet, livestock losses from native carnivores like mountain lions, black bears, and bobcats are practically nil.

Species are worth more alive than dead for Colorado’s booming outdoor recreation economy. While trophy hunters depend largely on funding provided by others (such as from federal taxes) to hunt trophy animals. The costs of administering hunting and trapping can exceed the cost from license sales.

Furthermore, the numbers of wildlife watchers continue to increase nationwide. According to the National Park Service, in 2020:

Colorado’s national parks had 6 million visitors.

Visitors spent $392 million in local gateway regions while visiting NPS lands in Colorado.

Wildlife tourism supported 5,560 jobs, $204 million in labor income, $353 million in value added, and $586 million in economic output in the Colorado economy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation in Colorado generated $9.6 billion for the state’s economy in 2020. Of that, hunting, shooting, and trapping combined generated less than 1 percent of the total outdoor recreation dollars spent in Colorado.

Species like bobcats also have significant ecotourism value beyond their pelt prices. In one study, the authors calculated that a single bobcat in one year’s time in Yellowstone National Park was valued at $308,105, a figure 1,000 times greater than a bobcat’s pelt price of $316.

Fur trapping has no place in modern society as the fur market is bottoming out. The number of trappers in America is in rapid decline because they have failed to recruit new members; the practice is socially unacceptable and falling pelt prices mean that trapping is no longer lucrative. The number of prominent apparel companies that have announced fur-free policies continues to grow, and it includes Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s.

Based on solid science and public opinion, Colorado's bill to ban trophy hunting of the state's wildcats is a model for other states to follow.1 People often ask to see supporting data for these sorts of efforts for which there is substantial resistance, and the numbers are readily available.

References

1) There are studies that call into question the science behind different management plans. See, for example, Murphy, Sean et al. Is unreliable science guiding bobcat management in Wyoming and other western U.S. states? Ecological Solutions and Evidence, January 2022.

Bekoff, Marc. Trophy Hunters: A Rare Inside View of What Makes Them Tick.

_____. Trophy Leaks: A Behind the Scenes Exposé of Killing For Fun.

_____. Trophy Hunting: A Detailed Exposé of the Extinction Industry.

_____. Trophy Hunters Exposed: Inside the Big Game Industry.

_____. Trophy Hunters' Smiles Show How Much They Like to Kill.

_____. Trophy Hunters Pay More to Kill Larger-Bodied Carnivores.

_____. Why Men Trophy Hunt: Showing Off and the Psychology of Shame.

_____. Do Some People Simply Like to Kill Other Animals?

_____. Beauty Is More than Skin Deep—and Helps Animals Survive.

_____. Should We "Nudge Nature" to Help Animals Save Themselves?

_____. Trophy Hunter Boasts: The More You Hate, the More I Kill.

Block, Kitty and Sara Amundson. Trophy hunters celebrate their kills in Las Vegas despite overwhelming public opposition. HSUS, January 11, 2022.

Darimont, Chris, Codding, Brian F., and Hawkes, Kristen. Why men trophy hunt. Biology Letters, 13 (3), 2017.

Humane Society of the United States. Protecting Colorado’s wild cats from trophy hunting.

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