Study finds that hunters are depleting lion and cougar populations

Jun 17, 2009

Sport hunters are depleting lion and cougar populations as managers respond to demands to control predators that threaten livestock and humans, according to a study published in the June 17 issue of PLoS ONE. The study was led by Craig Packer, a University of Minnesota professor and renowned authority on lion behavior, who worked with an international team of conservationists.

The study looked at numbers of lions and cougars killed by hunters over the past 15 to 25 years in Africa and the western United States. The analysis suggested that management agencies often adjusted quotas to control rather than conserve the big cats in areas where humans or livestock were threatened.

Sport hunting takes a significant toll on these large feline species because replacement males routinely kill their predecessors' cubs to improve their mating opportunities. (Killing cubs forces female lions into estrus or "heat.") The team of scientists confirmed this effect by comparing the impact of hunting on populations of lions, cougars and leopards with its impact on black bear populations because male black bears do not routinely kill infants of other males.

and cougar populations have suffered the greatest decline in and U.S. states where sport hunting has been most intense over the past 25 years, the researchers found. Leopards were not as affected as lions and cougars, most likely because they benefited from reduced numbers of lions. Black bears, by contrast, appear to be thriving despite the thousands of bears killed by hunters.

The study results point to the need for new approaches to protect humans and livestock and to manage sport hunting without endangering these vulnerable species. One possibility would be to restrict sport hunting to older males whose offspring have matured.

"We need to develop scientifically-based strategies that benefit hunters, livestock owners and conservationists," Packer says. "It's important to educate the public about the risks these large predators pose to rural communities and to help hunters and wildlife managers develop methods to sustain healthy populations."

Source: University of Minnesota (news : web)

Explore further: Hearing capabilities of bushcrickets and mammals

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Living with lions

Oct 24, 2007

There are many historical stories of shepherds and travellers encountering lions, for example the Old Testament contains dozens of tales about attacks on flocks and people by these fierce predators.

Key 'impact hunters' catalyze hunting among male chimpanzees

Feb 01, 2008

While hunting among chimpanzees is a group effort, key males, known as “impact hunters” are highly influential within the group. They are more likely to initiate a hunt, and hunts rarely occur in their absence, according ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.