Movement made in outlawing mountain lion hunt

A group behind a proposal to outlaw the practice of trophy hunting for mountain lions is gather signatures for the 2018 state ballot.

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A group behind a proposal to outlaw the practice of trophy hunting for mountain lions is gather signatures for the 2018 state ballot.

PHOENIX – Saying there’s no reason for “trophy hunting’’ of mountain lions, the Humane Society of the United States is moving to get Arizona voters to outlaw the practice.

The proposal for the 2018 ballot would make it illegal to pursue, shoot, snare, net or capture any “wild cat.’’ That specifically means bobcats and mountain lions.

As crafted, the ban also technically would apply to jaguars, lynx and ocelot. But those already are protected as endangered species.

“People no longer really tolerate trophy hunting,’’ said Kellye Pinkleton, the organization’s state director. “People are not shooting them, hounding them, trapping them for subsistence.’’

But Kurt Davis, a member of the state Game and Fish Commission, said the number of mountain lions killed each year – about 360 in 2015, the most recent numbers available – simply keeps the population in check and ensures that other species that are prey like bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope are not decimated.

And Davis said he sees something more sinister in the measure: part of an effort to ban hunting entirely.

“We do not have any blanket opposition to hunting,’’ Pinkleton responded.

Backers of the ban on hunting big cats have until next July to gather 150,642 valid signatures on petitions to get the issue on the ballot.

The group and its local affiliate have a track record of sorts. In 1994 they succeeded in getting voters to approve a ban on the use of leg hold traps on public lands by a margin of close to 3-2.

Pinkleton noted that initiative laws have since been tightened by the Republican-controlled Legislature, with a ban on paying circulators on a per-signature basis and a requirement that all petition papers be in “strict compliance’’ with all election laws.

If it gets that far, it could be difficult to defeat. Davis said Arizona has a higher percentage of urban residents than any other “inland’’ state, meaning people less likely to go hunting.

What that means is the Game and Fish Commission and hunters will need to make their case that the practice should not be outlawed.