for Mountain Lion Fever
by Jim Slinsky
|Editor's Note: Sometimes hunters in California think they are the only ones fighting the mountain lion management problem. This article by Jim Slinsky from Pennsylvania, shows that other states are also concerned about this issue.
In the past year or so, mountain lion sightings throughout Pennsylvania have just exploded. Discussion of the big cat has become so popular it enjoys almost a cult following. Internet groups have popped-up dedicated to everything to do with mountain lions. I am on some of those lists and receive more than my share of firsthand accounts of close encounters of the dangerous kind.
Frankly, there is nothing intriguing about mountain lions. They are not a symbol of the return of the wild, as some people like to claim. They are large, powerful, deadly predators that must kill to survive.
For decades we were told there are about 30 subspecies of mountain lions, with the extinct eastern puma being one of them. Modern science doesnt buy this old tale. Contemporary researchers claim there was and is only one mountain lion variety throughout this entire country. A possible exception is the Florida panther. In reality, if one is waiting for a descendant of the allegedly extinct eastern puma to show itself, dont hold your breath. Truthfully, mountain lions are neither endangered nor threatened, anywhere.
If we accept that some of the thousands of sightings are not mistaken identifies, but are indeed mountain lions, the big question becomes from where did they come. Realistically, there are only two possibilities, released lions or naturally migrating lions from other parts of the country. For the record, lets remind ourselves it is illegal for anyone or any group to release animals into the wild in the great state of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) probably has the right to do it, but Im certain they dont want the legal responsibility if someone were to be injured or killed by a lion.
Until recently, sightings were minimal in the Midwest and it seemed the big cats were either hunted in Colorado or they were seen in Pennsylvania. For years it seemed there were far more sightings in Pennsylvania than the Heartland. Without question, the natural migration theory has many obstacles to overcome. First and foremost is the Mississippi River and secondly, thousands of miles and the millions of people the cats must evade to get to our Commonwealth. It doesnt matter if you think they came here from Canada or Appalachia, natural migration is a dangerous path for lions. My point is that it does matter how they got here. We must ultimately figure this out and react appropriately.
Within my mailing lists are two well-respected mountain lion researchers that have consistently doubted the many sightings reported each year. Their point is scientifically basic. To establish that lions are amongst us, they want to see a documented, dead specimen. Actually, they need many dead specimens so they can begin DNA testing to determine the origin of the animals. Yes, genetic testing will help reveal if these critters are coming from a game farm or they are genetically linked to animals in the West. The riddle of origin will be solved. If covert reintroduction is our problem, the jig will be up.
It is a problem that the PGC does not list the mountain lion as a game animal. By their listing omission, the lion automatically becomes a protected species. Additionally, their current policy is to honor the federal old wives tale of the existence of the eastern puma. The stage is currently set for a reintroduction program with built-in federal protection. I am not saying that the PGC is conducting a secret reintroduction program, but perhaps someone else is. I must tell you, based on my emails our hunters believe the PGC is involved, directly and/or indirectly. (Our hunters believe the PGC stocked coyotes in this state.)
At this time, we must determine if our citizens are the victims of a reintroduction program of dangerous predators or are we the recipients of naturally migrating, dangerous predators? Are environmental extremists importing lions into our state as part of their ever-expanding Wildlands Project or is it an act of nature? Are lions being utilized to intimidate our rural residents into leaving their rural homes and properties to further Re-Wild Pennyslvania?
The PGC has steadfastly insisted mountain lions do not exist in Pennsylvania and that the sightings are errant releases of illegal pets by irresponsible people. This is very possible and certainly would negate any federal or state protection. What I am saying is that it is time to produce some dead mountain lions and inject science into this question of origin. Or, we could simply wait for someone to be killed by a mountain lion that is not supposed to exist in Pennsylvania.
Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the Sportsmans Connection, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com.
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