Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Protection sought for mountain lions in Iowa

Published Wednesday December 23, 2009

Protection sought for mountain lions
McClatchy Newspapers

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A deer hunter's shooting of a mountain lion last week in Iowa County has inspired an effort to secure legislative protection of the cats.

Catherine Oehl of Amana, Iowa, said she wants Iowans to ask state legislators to extend legal protection to mountain lions.

Oehl said the mountain lion shot Dec. 14 near Marengo "was not bothering or threatening anyone, and it should have been left alone so others could have had an opportunity to see it."

Large animals in Iowa such as mountain lions and black bears stir strong emotions from both sides, said Department of Natural Resources Director Rich Leopold.

"This is an issue where the people of Iowa, through their elected officials, need to make their voices heard," he said.

State furbearer specialist Ron Andrews said he has received many phone calls and e-mails since the shooting of the 125-pound male mountain lion.

"I would say at least two-thirds of them want some sort of legal protection for mountain lions," he said.

Cedar Rapids deer hunter Raymond Goebel Jr. said he shot the mountain lion about 45 minutes after first spotting it reclining on a horizontal tree branch.

Goebel, 47, said he waited to shoot it until he had confirmed that doing so was legal and that the landowner did not object.

Longtime hunter Rich Patterson, director of the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, said the shooting of a nonthreatening animal, "with no semblance of fair chase," gives hunters a bad image.

Patterson said he, too, has received many phone calls and e-mails, "all from people very frustrated that he shot it."

Leopold said Iowa code does not recognize mountain lions and black bears — extirpated native species that have recently begun reappearing in Iowa — so there is no law against killing them in the wild.

In 2001, the Department of Natural Resources asked the Legislature to classify mountain lions and black bears as furbearers, which would have given the DNR management authority and protected the animals from indiscriminate killing. The measure passed the House but died in the Senate.

Andrews acknowledged that many Iowans with children, pets or livestock would not consider the killing of a mountain lion indiscriminate and said that the furbearer status would allow people "the flexibility to take care of a problem."


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