How hunting cougars can harm Utah’s eco-systems

© Brkous dreamstime 



In an August 21, 2015 letter to the Utah Wildlife Board, on the draft cougar management plan, Kirk Robinson, Founder and CEO of Western Wildlife Conservancy, has written that the plan allows for the killing of too many cougars.


His letter to the Wildlife Board has been written ahead of the meeting to be held on August 27, 2015, at 9 am, at the Department of Natural Resources Auditorium, 1594 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah. The meeting, which will discuss the draft cougar management plan, is open to the public. Please attend if you can, or write to the Utah Wildlife Board to express your views (politely). (Please see below for the email address.)


Kirk Robinson writes that the numbers of cougars being killed in Utah have been “slowly creeping upward over the last several years.”


The average age of cougars left in the wild is now very young, only around three years. This is the result of the large number of cougar hunting permits sold each year.


He explains that killing more cougars does not result in fewer cougars straying into neighborhoods or threatening pets. Instead the older, more mature cougars are being killed, and younger, “teenage” cougars are more likely to behave erratically. Being hunted disrupts their social structure and causes instability.


Hunting also does not mean there will be fewer cougars and therefore fewer deer and elk killed by cougars. One of the stated purposes of hunting cougars is to protect deer and elk populations, for the benefit of hunters. However, it does not actually work this way, since scientific studies have demonstrated that cougar populations are limited by the prey available to them and by habitat requirements – not by the numbers of those being hunted and killed.


The presence of cougars on land means that deer are kept moving along and do not linger in one spot grazing; this ensures that there will not be overgrazing, so that an abundance of grass, trees, and other vegetation is able to grow, and this stops erosion of the land. Cougars are beneficial to the land and to all the other species that live there.


In the 1920’s when cougars and wolves were killed off on the Kaibab Plateau, the land was severely damaged; there was massive erosion, and huge numbers of deer died from starvation. Killing cougars does not increase the numbers of deer and elk available for hunting, instead, through habitat degradation, it places deer and elk populations in danger.


Higher numbers of cougars killed will only result in further destabilization of their social structure, as well as a much less healthy eco-system for all the other plants and animals. This is counterproductive in terms of wildlife management.


This basic principle also holds true for other large predators: coyotes, wolves, bobcats, and bears. Top predators are essential to a thriving eco-system. Killing them harms the whole habitat, and threatens all the other plants and animals, including deer and elk.


To read Kirk Robinson’s letter in full, click here.



To write to the Utah Wildlife Board, ahead of the August 27, 2015, meeting, in opposition to the draft cougar management plan, write to:


Gregory Sheehan, Division Director,

Regional Advisory Councils and Wildlife Board Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
P.O. Box 146301
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6301




Photo: © Brkous /


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