Every year hundreds of thousands of wild animals globally are killed solely to obtain a "prize"—that is, the heads, hides or pelts, and even whole stuffed animals—to hang on a wall, throw on the floor, or pose in a room. The practice is unethical, cruel, harmful and unsustainable.
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America’s Toll on Mountain Lions
Trophy hunters have killed over 78,000 mountain lions in the last two decades , according to a report, State of the Mountain Lion, released by The Humane Society of the United States.
Protect Native Carnivores from Trophy Hunting
A new study calls humans “the unsustainable super predator” because we kill too many wild animals, including top-level carnivores. Wolves, bears, mountain lions, and bobcats are killed annually right here in the U.S. solely for trophy and by some of the most egregious killing methods including hounding, baiting and trapping.
The death of Cecil, the African lion killed by an American dentist in 2015, shed a global spotlight on the gruesome nature of trophy hunting. The public rejects trophy hunting — according to a recent nationwide poll — by a two-to-one margin. The concept that individuals kill remarkable and rare animals for recreation and trophies is no longer an acceptable practice to the large majority of Americans. Native carnivores have intrinsic value.
Wildlife watchers contribute billions of dollars into local economies each year in order to view native carnivores such as wolves, cougars, bobcats and bears. Native carnivores are also intrinsically valuable as individuals and family members. Conserving these species creates enormous positive benefits to entire food webs.
Top carnivores like wolves and cougars exert pressure on their environments through their predation behaviors called a “trophic cascade”. Wolves and cougars make their landscapes both healthier and more biologically diverse. They remove the sick and weak from ungulate (deer, elk and moose) herds, making those populations stronger.
Native carnivores also provide resources for many other species, such as food for scavengers. In systems where they are present, top carnivores prevent ungulates from overgrazing — sometimes just by keeping them on the move (rather than by predation), which indirectly benefits plant, fish, amphibian and bird communities.
The Science against Trophy Hunting
Underlying a growing number of trophy hunts of carnivores in the United States is the wrongheaded, but long-standing, belief that killing these animals protects livestock as well as reduces nuisance complaints about carnivores in and around homes and towns. Research in Washington into comprehensive statistics from 25 years of this kind of wolf “management” found that shooting wolves indiscriminately actually may make things worse for farm animals. Similar research on cougars over several years had similar findings—each cougar killed increased farm animals killed and nuisance complaints by about 50%.
Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that livestock losses from native carnivores and domestic dogs together amount to less than one percent of the entire U.S. cattle inventory. Livestock losses can be further reduced if the industry would use a host of commonsense nonlethal measures such as employing lambing and calving sheds and removing dead stock (to prevent habituation).
Biologists have found that killing wolves or cougars neither makes people nor livestock safer. In fact, if adult cougars or wolves are persecuted, human conflicts are exacerbated. That is because stable family units are torn apart, leaving the young to find easy prey in order to survive. Furthermore, biological studies show that hunting bears does not resolve human-bear conflicts because trophy hunters kill the wrong bears—the animals in the woods, not the bears on the urban interface, and biologists in California and Colorado have found that cougars co-exist well with people—even in dense urban areas, cougars avoid contact with humans.
Killing Methods are cruel and unsporting.
Trophy hunting relies heavily on the most unfair, cruel methods including baiting, hounding, trapping, and captive hunts. These methods violate the tradition of fair-chase hunting and give human hunters, who already have the edge over their quarry, additional advantages to increase the hunters’ changes of collecting their trophies.
Baiting involves intensive feeding of wild animals to make them easy targets for trophy hunters waiting in a nearby blind. Bait is often placed by professional guides so they can assure their paying customers a guaranteed kill.
Hounding involves hunters and guides using packs of radio-collared hounds to pursue targeted trophy animals until the exhausted, frightened animals seek refuge in a tree, where they are shot, or turn to fight the hounds. Hounding results in injuries or death to both targeted trophy animals (particularly to bear cubs, cougar kittens and yearling wolf pups) and dogs and leaves vulnerable orphan young.
Trapping involves setting traps or snares that hold trophy animals until shot. Targeted trophy animals as well as family pets and other nontarget animals languish in these devices for hours and even days, sometimes suffering broken limbs or other painful injuries, dehydration, starvation and exposure until they are killed.
Semi-tame, captive-bred animals desired because of their rarity in the wild or their large antlers or horns are shot with guns or arrows inside fenced enclosures. These captive hunts, also known as “canned hunts,” are the very opposite of fair chase. Shooters at captive hunts pay to kill animals—even endangered species—trapped behind fences. There are more than a thousand captive hunts in the US.
Trophy Hunting is a Global Business and nothing more than a killing contest.
Globally, the trophy hunting of rare animals is a booming business largely championed by the U.S.-based Safari Club International (SCI). The SCI encourages wealthy big-game hunters to compete in contests to kill the most animals for awards, such as the “Africa Big Five” that includes lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffaloes. Americans are primary participants in the international trophy trade, with over 3,100 “Africa Big Five” species killed and imported into the United States by trophy hunters “Grand Slam” and “Inner Circle,” among others, reward trophy hunters for killing prescribed lists of animals in North America and beyond, including but not limited to wolves, cougars, grizzly bears and black bears. As if this wasn’t enough, the SCI’s World Hunting Award requires a hunter to kill hundreds more.
The SCI doesn’t limit its victims to animals in the wild, either – there is a special category in its record books for animals killed on captive, or “canned,” hunts, where animals are stocked and shot for trophies within fenced enclosures from which they cannot escape.
Trophy Hunting is not Conservation
Trophy hunters and their allies suggest that the profits from trophy hunting fund conservation efforts. The truth is private hunting guides and other individuals profit from these activities, depleting stressed animal populations and harming their long term survival in our few remaining wild spaces, most of which are currently threatened with human development. Trophy hunters and their allies further argue that the sales of hunting licenses contribute to wildlife conservation. Those claims are easily contested. Passing and upholding laws such as the Endangered Species Act will protect animals, while killing them does nothing to conserve them. Habitat conservation programs like Wildlife Land Trust work too.
You can help end trophy hunting. Take action now »