Behold, the mystery of the century. Why are these young, malnourished mountain lions coming into human-occupied areas?
It doesn't take a wildlife biologist to explain this one. These are the slowly starving offspring of lion females killed during the lion hunting season.
It has been more than four months since the hunting season closed and the orphans are reaching the end of their lines as unskilled hunters and are resorting to desperation hunting and going after domestic stock and pets and scavenging as necessary. It is also increasing the chances that they could become a threat to humans.
So what have we done? We have created the problem that some tried to rationalize the need for the hunting season. In short, we created the feared condition by establishing the hunting season.
Where there was no problem, there now is. But this problem is twofold. Now there is a problem for people, but there is a bigger problem for the cats. Those that are killed during the season leave kittens to slowly starve to death. These secondary deaths threaten the very existence of the species in this area.
A recent Journal article almost made it sound like lions are targeting collared elk calves. While the calves are a target of convenience for cats, empty collars don't mean the calf is dead. Many of the collars are being shed as the calves struggle through fences that their parents simply jump.
On the other hand, hunters knowingly take lions and elk that are fitted with collars as shown by a picture on the news at the end of the season of a hunter proudly displaying his collared cat with no regard to the effect on the science of the research study.
When a species' population becomes so small in an area, one of the unfortunate results is inbreeding of the remaining species members. This is the problem that hit the Florida panther population several years ago. The cats developed unexplained kinks in the ends of their tails obvious to anyone seeing them. But along with this, the cats developed a form of cancer of the blood and suffered reduced reproductive success.
I asked South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks officials if they ever considered capturing what some people considered excess cats here and shipping them to Florida. I was told no one wanted any cats from South Dakota.
However, that didn't match with what Florida officials told me. So Florida got captured lions from Texas, and it appears the inbreeding problems have resolved themselves with the input of new blood.
Another Florida incident showed just how committed they are to the preservation of their lions. One afternoon a lion wandered into the city limits of Fort Myers along the west coast. Police and game officials put out an immediate broadcast on radio and TV, and in minutes, hundreds of people mobilized to where the cat was and assisting police in detouring traffic, while others formed lines to drive the cat back to its territory.
In short order, the cat was returned to its native territory and local residents returned to their normal lives, knowing they had done their part in preserving a creation of God.
While hunting may sometimes be necessary in control of large-population species, in the case of small-population species, it can actually produce problems that didn't exist before.
Man cannot improve on nature. Nor can he replace God. All God's creatures have a place in the master plan, even if that plan doesn't fit with our self-serving goals.