The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (Department) is proposing an unlimited cougar hunt area in a portion of the Black Hills. (See Map 1, a relief map, at the end of our online blog ALERT.) They have already declared the Black Hills a “sink,” meaning that mortalities caused by legal hunting are to exceed additions to the population through births and immigration. This planned drastic reduction fits in with the plans of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fisheries and Parks, which hopes to reduce their Black Hills cougar population to 150 individuals (a highly suspect over-estimate) or even fewer.
The Department has been holding hearings on mountain lion quotas across Wyoming this month. The most important will be in Sundance on May 24th at 7:00 pm in the basement of the Crook County courthouse. On April 5th, a meeting was held in Hulett. 120 people attended. Twenty spoke. All favored reduction or elimination of Black Hills lions with one exception, Nancy Hilding of the Prairie Hills Audubon Society. A few people in the audience were pro-lion but were afraid to voice their opinions. Nancy learned that the big turnout of anti-lion people was a result of social networking. It is imperative that the Commission hears from cougar advocates at these meetings.
OPEN HOUSES and PUBLIC INFORMATION GATHERING MEETINGS (PIGMS)
|Casper||May 23||PIGM||Regional Office||7:00 p.m.||Casper|
|Cody||May 14||PIGM||Bighorn Federal Bank||6:00 p.m.||Cody|
|Dubois||May 15||PIGM||Headwaters Arts & Conference Center||6:00 p.m.||Lander|
|Green River||May 15||PIGM||Regional Office||7:00 p.m.||Green River|
|Jackson||June 4||PIGM||Regional Office||7:00 p.m.||Jackson|
|Laramie||May 14||PIGM||Regional Office||7:00 p.m.||Laramie|
|Pinedale||May 14||PIGM||Regional Office||6:00 p.m.||Pinedale|
|Sheridan||May 15||PIGM||Regional Office||5:00 p.m.||Sheridan|
|Sundance||May 24||Open House||Crook County Courthouse-basement||7:00 p.m.||Casper|
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission hearing to take action on these regulations will be on July 9-11, 2012, in Lander, Wyoming. In order for written comments to be reviewed by the Commission prior to the public hearing, written comments will be accepted beginning April 27, 2012 and no later than by 5:00 pm on June 12, 2012. (To be sure that comments sent via postal mail are received by June 12th, mail them by June 7th. They must be signed.)
Methods for submitting public comment – Deadline is June 12, 2012
1. Online at http://wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/HUNTING-1000179.aspx
2. Written comments shall be accepted on regulations at all public information gathering meetings (listed above).
3. Written comments should be mailed to:
Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Casper Regional Office
ATTN: Wildlife Division, Regulations
3030 Energy Lane
Casper, WY 82604
Background: The Black Hills are essential for the chance of any natural cougar recolonization to the east. A majority of the subadult cougars that have been documented in midwestern states were born in the Hills. Last June a Black Hills male made it all the way to Connecticut. With the planned cougar population reductions in both South Dakota and Wyoming, surviving young male dispersers will have no need to leave to find unoccupied habitat with access to females. Females are not nearly as inclined as males to travel far from their natal range. No females = no recolonization. In addition, it is essentially open season on cougars in South Dakota outside the Black Hills.
Wyoming ranchers and hunters are calling for a drastic reduction, even elimination, of cougars in the Black Hills. Ranchers claim that cougars will prey on their cattle. No data on cougar kills in the Hills are available. The white-tailed deer population has fallen in recent years, not because of cougars, but due to a harsh winter with deep snow in 2010-2011. The G&F Department acknowledges this is the case, but whenever ungulate populations fall, or are perceived to be falling, cougars and wolves are convenient scapegoats. Demands of ranchers and hunters, backed by two local state congressmen, may be sufficient excuse to order the unlimited kill-zone without any scientific support. (In South Dakota, disputed claims of elk calf depredation are driving the planned reduction. Elk are plentiful in Wyoming and are not an issue.)
The Department divides Wyoming into cougar hunt areas with different quotas. (See Map 2 at the end of our online blog ALERT.) Normally quotas are revised every three years, but the Department is under such political pressure that it raised the Black Hills quota last year and is planning to do so again. In 2001, the Wyoming Black Hills were in one hunting area, Area 1, with a quota of 5, increased to 12 in 2007. For the 2007-2008 season, Area 1 was divided into two areas: Areas 1 & 30, with a total quota of 24. The Black Hills were designated a sink in 2010, with a quota of 40. Now the Department proposes to increase the Black Hills hunting zones to three (Areas 1, 30, and 32). (See Map 3 at the end of our online blog ALERT.) The quotas in the reduced Hunt Areas 1 and 30 would total 32. Unlimited killing would l be allowed in the new Hunt Area 32, which includes no national forest land. See http://wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/Departments/Wildlife/pdfs/CH42-SOR-REG0002101.pdf for details.
Note that the Black Hills (Hunt Areas 1 & 30) are surrounded by Area 24, with an unlimited kill. The source of the cougars that recolonized the Black Hills in the 1990s are thought to be the Bighorn Mountains (Areas 21 and 23) and the Snowy Range (Areas 9 and 31) Is it a coincidence the quotas are proposed to be raised in the Snowy Range? It appears that the Department not only intends to drastically reduce the Black Hills population but to prevent them from immigrating by surrounding the Hills with a wide unlimited kill area (24) and reducing the population in a source, the Snowy Range.
What You Can Do. The Black Hills are nationally important for cougar recovery. Cougars on private land in Wyoming belong to all Wyoming citizens, not just to hunters and ranchers. Those on national forest land in the Black Hills (green on the map) belong to all US citizens. If you don’t live in Wyoming, contact friends and relatives in Wyoming seeking their assistance. Urge them to attend a hearing and make a short statement opposing the increase in quotas and the unlimited kill-zone. If they can’t attend, ask them to submit a statement. (You can write one for them.)
Ask them to send copies of the letter to the commissioners of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department:
Aaron Clark, Box 249, Wheatland, WY 82201
Michael Healy, 1205 North Hillcrest Drive, Worland, WY 82401
Richard Klouda, 818 Vance Drive, Lander, WY 82520
Fred Lindzey, 17 Millbrook Road, Laramie, WY 82070
Carrie Little, Box 166, Leiter, WY 82837
Ed Mignery, 181 Miller Creek Road, Sundance, WY 82729
Charles Price, Box 375, Daniel, WY 83115
Several recent news articles on the proposed quota increase have been recently posted on our blog:
Schedule of important May meetings in Wyoming. Unlimited cougar kill proposed in part of the Black Hills
Kill first, study later! Wyoming Game & Fish Department will propose unlimited kill in part of the Black Hills in Sundance hearing on May 24th