Colorado wildlife needs protection, not political indifference
By Aubyn Royal
In recent years, Colorado has become one of the nation’s leading animal welfare states. We recently passed a law banning cages for laying hens and have made progress to protect dogs and cats, such as implementing regulations for pet stores that import dogs from puppy mills and rescinding restrictions. dog breed discrimination regulations.
Unfortunately, Colorado lags behind in wildlife protection, especially native carnivores such as mountain lions and bobcats. Most Colorado residents would be shocked to learn that trophy hunting is the number one cause of death for these species in our state. Thousands of animals are hunted each year, simply to be stuffed as trophies for a household, in the case of bobcats, to be skinned and have their skins sold and made into fur coats and hats.
Trophy hunters can hunt feral cats with packs of dogs that often injure or kill the cats they hunt, and dogs can hurt or kill themselves while hunting. Bobcats are frequently captured in live traps where they struggle for hours or more, sustaining injuries before the hunter comes to kill them at close range or they die of exposure. Non-target species, including golden eagles and Canada lynx, are also caught in traps set for bobcats.
That’s why it’s so disappointing that Colorado’s Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources voted against SB 31 last Thursday, killing a bill that would have provided some protection for these animals. Championed by Colorado Legislative Animal Welfare Caucus Co-Chair Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, SB 31 would have banned trophy hunting of cougars and bobcats in Colorado. This would have ended the unnecessary culling of these wild animals, which provide incredible benefits to our state’s beloved wild spaces and may even play a role in combating the epidemic of chronic wasting disease plaguing people. of deer and elk throughout the state.
Colorado feral cats are primarily hunted for trophies, not food, and ultimately it is cruel and inconsistent with the values of the majority of our state’s residents to persecute them. Multiple surveys and polls have shown that Coloradans are fundamentally opposed to trophy hunting and trapping of feral cats, including the majority of people living in mountain lion territory.
There is no valid reason to include trophy hunting as a “management” tool for cougars and Colorado bobcats. Feral cats don’t need humans to hunt them to “control” their populations. This notion does not stand up to scientific scrutiny although it is frequently put forward by trophy hunters to justify their practices. Cougars are at the top of the food chain and are limited by their resources on the landscape, primarily food and territory. Their numbers only increase until the landscape can support them.
Trophy hunting of feral cats only destabilizes their populations, harming entire ecosystems. It also results in the loss of orphaned kittens who inevitably die of starvation, predation, or exposure to the elements when their mother is killed. And puma kittens, which are dependent on their mothers until they are two years old, can end up coming into conflict with humans, pets and livestock once orphaned because they lack the skills to hunt natural prey and can readily seek other food sources. despair.
Federal and state data show that livestock losses caused by mountain lions are extremely rare in Colorado and beyond. Additionally, indiscriminate feral cat hunting does not target problem cats involved in public safety issues or livestock losses. It can even lead to increased conflict by disrupting their sensitive social structures, leaving young animals without the life skills they need to avoid human communities and survive in the wild.
Senator Jaquez Lewis was the ideal sponsor for SB 31 as she has a clear track record of working with stakeholders and finding compromise. Last year, she was the Senate patron on HB21-1102, which began with a ban on pet stores selling puppy-mill dogs. The senator stuck with the bill as many concessions and changes were made to its wording during the legislative session. Sponsors who have different ideas about what the legislation should look like are a real asset to the process. They help ensure that a carefully crafted bill makes it to the governor’s office. After starting with the strongest bill possible, Senator Jaquez Lewis demonstrated a clear commitment to finding common ground with his SB 31 colleagues. Unfortunately, the opportunity to continue working on this bill in 2022 was eliminated by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. .
This is not the end for Colorado’s wildcats – we will never stop fighting to protect them from the needless killing our wildlife agency promotes.
Aubyn Royall is Colorado State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.