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There has been some discussion on this question about whether or not hunting would increase or decrease the likelihood of a mountain lion attack. I have seen some websites saying that it does not, but I am skeptical of their objectivity.

Have there been any reputable studies done on this? Or at least non-biased? As in not done by either hunting organizations or organizations who consider almost all hunting to be bad?

I do realize that the number of attacks is fairly low, but as this is can be a rather controversial subject, I would like to know if any research has been done on it?

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  • I think you have a problem with definitions here. If by hunting, you mean having eliminated all mountain lions from a particular area (e.g. much of the US east of the Mississippi), then obviously you've eliminated attacks on humans there. If OTOH you manage them for sport hunting, keeping a viable population, you've got a much different question.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 19, 2017 at 19:22
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    There are interest groups that want to eliminate all predators, which have at times persuaded states to use tax money to do so. Mountain lions HAVE been eliminated from most of the eastern US. Sport hunting is IMHO the best description for hunting something you don't intend to eat - and I think few people who hunt mountain lions intend to eat them, although according to accounts from the 19th century, they're supposed to be fairly tasty. (Google will find links to recipies.)
    – jamesqf
    Feb 20, 2017 at 4:02

2 Answers 2

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There are two things we have to keep in mind with this subject. If the cougar populations are in decline anywhere, this would seem to mean that cougar attacks would naturally also be in decline. But if sport hunting is in fact contributing to mountain lion population declines but still not increasing public safety or reducing attacks on livestock, then other options for mountain lion management must be looked into.

Take a look at this article, which puts forth the idea that sport hunting does not reduce the likelihood of mountain lion attack:

The Mountain Lion Foundation initiated this study to test the claim that sport hunting reduces attacks on humans and predation on livestock.

Methodology

To test the claim that sport hunting reduces conflicts, we looked to California, the only western state with viable mountain lion populations that does not allow sport hunting. Mountain lions have not been sport hunted in California since 1971, first as the result of a legislative moratorium and then as the result of a 1990 citizen sponsored ballot initiative which made the ban permanent.

Consequently, for 34 years California has served as a living laboratory to study the relationship between humans and mountain lions in the absence of sport hunting. It also presents an opportunity to test whether sport hunting has been an effective conflict-reduction strategy in states where it is allowed.

Findings

With regard to mountain lion attacks on humans in the western United States and Canada from 1972 (the first year of the sport hunting ban in California) to 2005:

  • Nine states and one Canadian Province, which have sport hunting of mountain lions, had a higher per capita rate of attacks on humans than did California.

  • Two states which have sport hunting of mountain lions had a higher rate of attacks on humans per square mile of suitable mountain lion habitat than did California.

With regard to mountain lion predation on livestock, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2005):

  • Six states which have sport hunting of mountain lions reported a larger percentage of domestic sheep and lambs killed by mountain lions than did California.

  • Four states which have sport hunting of mountain lions reported a roughly equivalent or larger percentage of cattle and calves killed by mountain lions and bobcats than did California. [Note: NASS statistics do not distinguish between mountain lion and bobcat attacks on cattle so the actual percentage killed by mountain lions is likely smaller than presented.]

Discussion

It is noteworthy that an increase in mountain lion attacks on humans in several western states during the 1990s occurred at the same time that the number of mountain lions killed by humans was reaching record levels. According to agency records, from 1990 to 1999:

  • 3,255 mountain lions were reported killed by sport hunters in Colorado (10 attacks on humans).

  • 5,063 mountain lions were killed in Montana (4 attacks).

  • 1,710 mountain lions were killed in Washington (3 attacks).

In fact, some mountain lion experts have raised the possibility that sport hunting -- rather than decreasing the likelihood of attacks -- may actually increase the risk of attacks.

For further information on this subject please take a look at this entire article: Effects of Sport Hunting Mountain Lions on Safety and Livestock. The article, charts and photos are quite interesting.

Average annual number of mountain lion attacks on humans per one million residents in the western U.S. and British Columbia, 1972-2005

Average annual number of mountain lion attacks on humans per one million residents in the western U.S. and British Columbia, 1972-2005

Average annual number of mountain lion attacks on humans per 10,000 square miles of suitable mountain lion habitat in the western U.S., 1972-2005

Average annual number of mountain lion attacks on humans per 10,000 square miles of suitable mountain lion habitat in the western U.S., 1972-2005

Distribution of human population in western U.S. states. Source: U.S. Census Bureau (2000)

Distribution of human population in western U.S. states. Source: U.S. Census Bureau (2000)

Distribution of suitable mountain lion habitat in western U.S. states. Source: Ashman et al. (1983), Edwards et al. (1995), Merrill et al. (1996), Thompson et al. (1996), Cassidy (1997), Davis et al. (1998), Redmond et al. (1998), Kagan et al. (1999), O'Neill et al. (2001), Schrupp et al. (2000), Scott et al. (2002), NMGFD (2005), CDOW (2005), Wolstenhulme (2005)

Distribution of suitable mountain lion habitat in western U.S. states. Source: Ashman et al. (1983), Edwards et al. (1995), Merrill et al. (1996), Thompson et al. (1996), Cassidy (1997), Davis et al. (1998), Redmond et al. (1998), Kagan et al. (1999), O'Neill et al. (2001), Schrupp et al. (2000), Scott et al. (2002), NMGFD (2005), CDOW (2005), Wolstenhulme (2005)

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    It is not only the rate of attacks per capita (presumably human capita) that is important, but also the number of mountain lions. If you want to calculate the probability of a collision in a gas between atom A (homo) and atom B (cougars) you need the partial pressure of both atom A and of atom B -- for cougars and homo, you thus need the population per unit area of both in a given area. Does this article include that?
    – ab2
    Feb 18, 2017 at 14:36
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    That article puts forth some ideas but it in no way supports a statistical conclusion. Some data is chosen that misrepresent. No kidding CA is going to have low incidence per 1,000,000 residents - CA has a large human population on the coast in large cities. CA has over 5 million cattle and most of that dairy cattle that spend a good deal of time in the barn and are highly managed. Arizona has less than 1 million cattle and most of those on large ranges. Comparing apples to apples CA has had a higher incidence since hunting was banned.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 18, 2017 at 18:19
  • @Paparazzi: Most of those California dairy cows would be living in the Central Valley, which isn't suitable mountain lion habitat. If you look at the area that is, say the Sierra Nevada and north through the Modoc Plateau, you will find a lot of open-range cattle (I'd guess about the same density as Arizona) and a notable lack of large cities. Likewise, (per Google) about 4.2 million of Arizona's 6.7 million humans live in the Phoenix metro area. So this comparison is maybe just McIntosh to Golden Delicious :-)
    – jamesqf
    Feb 18, 2017 at 19:22
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    Also any site that says Hunting mountain lions is morally unjustified. ** **Killing lions to prevent conflicts is ineffective and dangerous. would be considered biased in my opinion. Feb 19, 2017 at 3:20
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    Not my down vote. I don't think the article disproves a correlation but you put in effort to research and present it.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 19, 2017 at 10:50
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I can only speak from living in my geological area, thick forest near Lake Tahoe California. Here in Ca, hunting lions is not allowed. I personally love these creatures. I've camped all over this state, as a kid (@13) We seen 1 lion and it was looking at us from about half a mile away. Having said that... Last week I almost hit one crossing a major road. What I'm about to say is not common, I work night shift ave live the same hours. I see what most people who grew up out here never see. I've seen several lions in 4 years. I've heard a female lions breeding call, that's freaky. They absolutely love sneaking up on us, it's highly unlikely you'll ever hear them, or that they will attack you... however, the population is growing, a lot. My area has several, there's been helicopters that caught night vision footage of several congregating together, this is kind of new to us. But people do disappear out here. Not saying it's because of lions... but the government doesn't really want people overreacting, we've got some very very skilled lion trackers out here. Whenever there's suspicious stuff involving lions, these people are like shadows, they will usually figure it out.
But not many people are outside every night in the forest, many don't go out of its dark, it's spooky out here. I've been creeped on several times, a house cat scared one away, shots into the ground scared the rest away. One did look like it was going to jump, like a kitty cat does, that was exciting. But I'm still around, they are getting mighty thick in population and have no place to go. Keep the forest wild, head on a swivel. Worried, then go to bed.

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    This doesn't address the question of statistical evidence, but is nevertheless useful as a report of first-hand experience of sightings, hearings, and absence of attacks, and I upvoted it.
    – ab2
    Nov 29, 2023 at 21:21
  • Would be interesting to know: (1) why are the skilled lion trackers tracking lions? For hunters, or to remove a threat near populated areas or what? (2) a house cat scared off a lion? Wow! What breed or just an "ordinary" house cat? (No cat is ordinary.) I had a very old, frail cat who scared off a large raccoon, both of them being outside.
    – ab2
    Nov 29, 2023 at 21:40

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