You probably don't see them very often but there are wild cats all over Colorado and "Cats Aren't Trophies" wants to make sure they are protected from profiteers.
Pat Craig the executive director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg knows the dangers Colorado's wild cats face from humans outside of his compound including some hunters and trappers.
"They want to mount the head or something like that or mount the whole body, but it's a trophy," said Craig.
That's why he's supporting an effort by Cats Aren't Trophies to outlaw trophy hunting of mountain lions, bobcats, and Canadian lynx in Colorado. They are collecting signatures to have the issue put on the 2024 ballot.
"We really want the voters to have the chance to say, 'Hey look we really are serious. We really believe this is something that needs addressed,'" said Craig.
Dan Gates the executive director of Coloradans for Responsible Wildlife Management disagrees. He says, "The general public should do the best that they can possibly do to educate themselves and to differentiate between fallacies and facts."
He says hunting wild cats is already heavily regulated in Colorado. The state limits how many lions can be harvested every day. You can't hunt mountain lions after a specific number has been reached. When it comes to bobcats you can only use box cages in Colorado and Canadian lynx are a federally protected species so you can't hunt or kill them at all. He thinks Colorado Parks and Wildlife does a good job protecting cats and enforcing existing laws.
"I would just as soon have the experts, the wildlife managers, the scientists, the biologists do the job of our wildlife management and natural resource management," said Gates.
He says the language in this initiative creates a slippery slope that could eventually prevent all hunting.
"Their definition within the initiative indicates that trophy hunting is to intentionally kill wound or trap any one of those species that they list in the initiative. That could be easily defined as any other wildlife," said Gates.
In response to Dan Gates' statements in this story Cats Aren't Trophies released the following statement:
"We are a serious-minded campaign that is rooted in undisputed facts, wildlife ethics, Colorado values and the best science, which you can read about on our web site, www.catsarenttrophies.org . The ballot language is precise in its definition of a ban on trophy hunting of mountain lions and fur trapping of bobcats, with clear exemptions for livestock protection and for public safety. Lynx are well documented in many states getting caught, injured and killed in traps set indiscriminately for other species, and so are at high risk in Colorado with bobcat trapping. CATs believes Coloradans deserve to know the truth of how their wildlife is treated, and to make smart decisions based on the facts, rather than be falsely swayed by personal and unwarranted attacks of character."
Pat Craig says this initiative isn't to prevent cat hunting altogether but to give cats a fair chance.
"This one's really just about trophy hunting which is where they have a pack of dogs chase a mountain lion up a tree and then the hunter walks up and shoots it," said Craig.
Gates says using hounds to track and tree a mountain lion is also how scientists study and gather data about the animal and hunting expeditions aren't always successful so the number of cats harvested is lower than one might assume.
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