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Idaho agents kill three malnourished cougars

 
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 12:51 am    Post subject: Idaho agents kill three malnourished cougars Reply with quote

Friday, January 18, 2008 8:05 AM MST

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) -- Three malnourished mountain lion kittens killed this week at the direction of a state wildlife biologist may have been starving because they and their mother had been treed so often by hunters that the adult cat had no time to hunt, the biologist says.

"It's really unfortunate that this happened," said Carl Anderson of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

He said recent reports from the Mink Creek area, about seven miles outside this eastern Idaho city, had various hunters with dogs treeing a female mountain lion with kittens in order to take pictures of the family.

"I believe it is conceivable the female hadn't had time to kill a deer for a while because she's been on the run quite often," Anderson told the Idaho State Journal.

Residents in the area had reported seeing a mountain lion with one or more kittens, sightings that Anderson said were unusual for an animal as secretive as a mountain lion.

"Generally, the reason for acting that way is (cougars are) very malnourished and don't have the strength or energy to run," Anderson said. "Once they get to that point, there's nothing we can do. They will continue getting into trouble until they die, which is generally not very long."

He said two of the young mountain lions were shot Sunday and a third one on Monday after a U.S. Forest Service employee living at the Mink Creek Ranger Station reported one of the kittens was staying near a shed.

"He said he could approach it close enough to touch it if he needed to," Anderson said.

Anderson said he told the Forest Service employee to kill the mountain lions if he saw them again.

"(Sunday night) he called and said he'd killed the two kittens in the hay barn," said Anderson. "(Monday) morning he called and said a third one was acting the same way. I recommended they kill the third one too."

In Idaho, hunters can use dogs to pursue mountain lions, which typically results in the mountain lions climbing a tree. Also, hunters with dogs sometimes tree lions for sport with no intention of killing them.

"Many hound hunters prefer not to shoot their quarry," Mark Gamblin, supervisor for Fish and Game's southeast region, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Their objective is to enjoy the chase and take photographs of the cats when they've been treed, then let them go."

He said it's illegal to shoot a mountain lion with kittens and added he had no idea what happened to the mother cat. He said the kittens were less than a year old.

"I think it's very unlikely that the mother would have abandoned the kittens," he said.

He said the agency had no choice but to have the kittens killed.
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