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Report: Utah Among Top States for Mountain Lion Trophy Hunts

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016   

SALT LAKE CITY - More than 29,000 mountain lions have been killed across the country in the past decade by trophy hunters, according to a new report. The Humane Society of the United States lists Utah among the top five states where large numbers of the big cats, also called cougars, have been hunted and killed.

Wendy Keefover, carnivore protection manager with the group, says states like Utah that allow big-cat hunts do not properly monitor their mountain lion populations.

"Utah, in their management plan, said that it was OK to hunt between 20 and 30 percent of the entire mountain lion population, but it's so out of balance," Keefover says. "Some of the best available science is saying no more than 14 percent."

Utah state wildlife officials estimate the state's mountain lion population to be as many as 4,500 cats but some conservation groups say the count could be much smaller. The Humane Society report says between 2005 and 2014, 3,200 cougars were taken in Utah, fourth among the states behind Idaho, Montana and Colorado, with Arizona in fifth place.

Keefover says the majority of mountain lions killed in trophy hunts are mounted for display, or their pelts used for rugs. She described a typical hunt.

"It's done with a pack of trailing hounds and they wear high-tech radio collars on their necks, and that allows the hunters to follow their movements on a computer," she says. "So once they get the cat into a tree or on a cliff face, then they come in and shoot the cat at close range."

The plight of big game animals was publicized last year when "Cecil," an iconic African lion, was killed in Zimbabwe by an American trophy hunter. Big game hunting is a multi-billion-dollar business worldwide, and many hunters believe that their sport contributes to conserving the species.


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