As I moved through the airport on my way to Chicago, I saw the Bismarck Tribune story saying that state game and fish officials are reducing the number of mountain lion permits. To which I say, hooray and it’s about time. I miss having my weekly column in the Bismarck Tribune–there is just now so much I would like to write about.
When mountain lions began to return to North Dakota, squeamish people began to fret about them. I remember reading a letter to the editor from someone who said he would never feel safe hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park again. The state adopted what I regard as unnecessarily gunhappy mountain lion “hunting” protocols. Too many were allowed to be killed per annum. And anyone who regarded a mountain lion as a threat to her or his safety or home place could kill them with the state’s permission and even approval.
Most “domestic” mountain lion killings are entirely irrational and unnecessary. They don’t want to co-habit our towns with us. They are usually just passing through, and if you can forbear rushing for the shotgun, they will probably be long gone by sunset or tomorrow morning when you wake up. The number of mountain lion attacks on humans is minuscule, and the number of killings so rare as to constitute no real threat.
Nor do I regard dogs chasing a mountain lion up a tree, and then someone standing below and blasting the majestic animal out of the tree, as hunting in any legitimate sense. I’m with Theodore Roosevelt: unless the animal has a fair chance of getting away, or turning on you and reversing the polarity between predator and prey, it’s not really hunting at all.
We hunted the mountain lion so severely that sightings are way down.
One of my most fervent wishes is to encounter a mountain lion, to have a few minutes to observe it, and to be open-mouthed in awe of such a creature in the unnecessarily tame environment of the northern Great Plains. I wish the state game and fish department would severely limit the kill numbers, and outlaw shooting them out of trees altogether. I’d rather see dogs prohibited in the chase, too, but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen. It is interesting that it seems to take at least 1.5 domestic creatures (and often many more) to kill this one amazing wild creature.