updated 5:28 p.m. ET, Mon., Feb. 16, 2009
RENO (AP) -- Mountain lion advocates are up in arms over new plans announced by Nevada wildlife officials to kill more lions in order to help reverse a decline in mule deer numbers.
Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Ken Mayer says his agency now plans to conduct regular statewide studies of deer and other "priority" wildlife species.
He says the department will target lions in areas where they have been found to adversely affect deer numbers and base the exact number of lions to be killed on science. The state Board of Wildlife Commissioners has directed agency staff to pursue the policy with the help of sport hunters and contract employees from the U.S.
Agriculture Department's Wildlife Services.
Unlike California, Nevada allows hunting of lions. Commissioners also set a quota of 306 lion tags to be issued for the year beginning March 1 -- down 40 from the previous year -- but increased the number of lion tags that a hunter could obtain from two to three.
Supporters of the new policy say its an effort to bring lion numbers to reasonable levels, not to exterminate them. But lion advocates sharply criticized the new policy, saying studies show drought and habitat loss due to wildfires and development are far more important factors for declining deer numbers.
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