Our support for a ban on trophy hunting of Arizona’s wild cats

The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection has formally endorsed a new ballot initiative that seeks to ban trophy hunting of wild cats in Arizona, specifically mountain lions, bobcats, jaguars, ocelots, and lynx. 

In the  spirit of transparency and open discussion, the main reasons we have endorsed the Arizonans for Wildlife ballot initiative include:

  • We strongly believe in protecting and restoring functioning ecosystems in the Sonoran Desert. Population growth, climate change, and an increasingly fragmented landscape have stressed Sonoran Desert wildlife and reduced the healthy, connected wildlife habitat available to them. Given these ever-present and ever-growing stressors, we cannot support the additional stressor of hunting of wild cats simply for displaying their bodies. Furthermore and perhaps even more importantly, wild cats such as mountain lions are important predators in a healthy Sonoran Desert ecosystem that serve a critical function in maintaining healthy populations of other wildlife. A recent study published in the journal Science Advances also investigated the social networks of mountain lions and concluded that, contrary to conventional wisdom, “solitary” male mountain lions play a much larger role in maintaining mountain lion communities than was previously thought. This means that the trophy hunting of adult male mountain lions could have more serious and negative consequences on female and young mountain lion populations than was previously thought. We support the continued re-connection and protection of wildlife habitat so that wildlife populations can recover and thrive in the future. We do not believe trophy hunting of wild cats contributes to this goal. 
  • We support hunting for subsistence and providing food for Arizona families but we do not support trophy hunting of wild cats. We collaborated with hunters and ranchers on the creation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and we hope these partnerships continue far into the future. However, this support does not extend to the trophy hunting of wild cats. We believe it is possible to be pro-hunting while also disagreeing with trophy hunting of wild cats. It does not have to be all or nothing. While some hunting groups have written that the groups supporting this ballot initiative are “anti-hunting extremist organizations,” we could not disagree more. The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection has a long history of compromise and collaboration with a wide variety of community stakeholders, including ranchers, hunters, real estate developers, local governments, private property owners, and others, and we are proud of this heritage. We are hopeful that our position in support of this ballot initiative can be viewed with the nuance and complexity it deserves. 
  • This is a very specific and limited measure that only applies to wild cats. We understand that hunters are generally very supportive of conservation and that money generated from selling hunting licenses and tags is an important source of revenue for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD). We partner with AGFD on many of our projects and respect and apprciate the hard-working professionals that work there and the important work they do to protect and manage Arizona’s wildlife. We acknowledge that banning trophy hunting of wild cats will mean a loss of the specific revenue for hunting tags for mountain lions and possibly a loss of revenue for a small number of hunting licenses (if someone is only purchasing this license to hunt mountain lions or bobcats). As with any complex issue, we have to weigh the pros and cons and the costs and benefits of different viewpoints. In this case, we believe that the loss of revenue from hunting tags for mountain lions and a small number of hunting licenses is an acceptable trade-off compared to the benefits gained from keeping wild cat populations thriving and intact.

NOTE: Mountain lions are the only species covered by this initiative that require purchased “tags” for hunting. To hunt bobcats, you only need a general hunting license. Jaguars, ocelots, and lynx are not allowed to be hunted at this time due to federal protections. However, this initiative includes them due to possible incidental hunting and to be forward-thinking and comprehensive in scope, i.e., if any of these species are recovered enough in the future to be removed from the federal “threatened” and “endangered” species list, they would be protected from trophy hunting at that time with this ballot initiative. In addition, lynx are included in this initiative because they were recently re-introduced into southwest Colorado and individual lynx were documented in northwest Arizona afterwards. More information on this research can be found here.

For more information about this ballot initiative, we invite you to check out the Arizonans for Wildlife website. This “Fact Sheet” about Arizona’s wild cats also includes many scientific citations that discuss the best available science on the life history and biology of wild cats. 

Interested in helping gather the necessary signatures to place this ballot initiative on the ballot in November 2018? Head here to fill out a volunteer interest form and one of the campaign’s staff member will be in touch as soon as possible. 

Would you like to discuss this further with Coalition staff? Please send us an email and we’ll respond as soon as we can! 

Thank you for supporting healthy wildlife and wildlife habitat in the Sonoran Desert! 

This mountain lion was captured on a wildlife camera at one of two wildlife underpasses on State Route 86 on the Tohono O’odham Nation in 2014. The Coalition was involved with the construction of these wildlife underpasses through our participation on the Regional Transportation Authority’s Wildlife Linkages Committee.

This mountain lion was captured by one of the Coalition’s remote motion-activated wildlife cameras in Catalina State Park in 2015. We have almost 50 wildlife cameras out in the field capturing data about Sonoran Desert wildlife in Pima County. These cameras are managed by 60+ dedicated volunteers.

This bobcat seems to be smiling for one of our wildlife cameras located west of Tortolita Mountain Park. Bobcats are frequently caught on our wildlife cameras and some of our volunteers have reported seeing bobcat kittens in their backyards.

This bobcat was captured by an Arizona Game and Fish Department wildlife camera installed in the Oracle Road wildlife underpass, which was finished in 2016 as part of a larger project that widened Oracle Road from four to six traffic lanes. As of June 2017, Game and Fish has documented 59 bobcats crossing Oracle Road safely through the wildlife underpass or over the wildlife bridge.