By Adam Tanner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Sport hunting of mountain lions in the American West does not reduce the number of attacks by the animals, also called cougars and pumas, against man and livestock, said a study released on Tuesday
"Sport hunting is nothing more than the random shooting of mountain lions for fun, it does not reduce attacks on people or livestock, as far as we can tell from any of the evidence," said Lynn Sadler, president of the Sacramento, California-based Mountain Lion Foundation which initiated the study.
"What we would like to see is that states manage them according to science, and not just some, you know, idea that you can somehow randomly shoot them for fun and cause anybody or anything to be any safer," she said in an interview.
About a dozen Western U.S. states have thousands of mountain lions living in the wild, Sadler said. All except California allow controlled hunting of lions, with some agencies citing the protection of man and livestock as a reason for the practice.
The new study by Christopher Papouchis compared the number of attacks in California with states allowing hunting, and said it took into account the human population and size of the mountain lion habitat. It is posted online at www.pumaconservation.org.
Many Western wildlife management experts say species such as bears, mountain lions and deer show more caution around humans if they are hunted and more aggressiveness if they are not.
"Hunting of lions is one way to regulate lion populations so you minimize those types of conflicts," said Larry Peterman, chief of field operations at the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
"We get occasional conflicts with livestock; we have very few conflicts with people," he said. "We certainly think it's an effective management tool."
But Papouchis' study disagreed. "If sport hunting actually reduced attacks, then states with sport hunting should have had relatively fewer attacks than California," Papouchis said in a statement. "That was not the case."