In July 2015, the death of Zimbabwe’s 13-year-old Cecil the lion at the hands of an American big-game hunter caused an international media firestorm. Conservationists, politicians and celebrities alike were outraged for Cecil, and within five months the United States took steps to make it much more difficult for U.S. citizens to legally kill African lions.
Most Canadians were equally outraged at Cecil’s death, so why are we not equally concerned at how our own “lions” are hunted for trophies in our backyard? Our Canada’s Big Cats campaign intends to rectify that, helping to expose the lack of science and ethics in the management of Canada’s cougars, lynx and bobcats.
While many of the Western U.S. States have taken very progressive steps to improve the management of their wild cats in recent decades -- California banned cougar hunting in 1990, banned hound hunting of bobcats in 2012, and banned all trapping in 2019; Oregon banned hound hunting of cougars in 1994; and Washington banned hound hunting of cougars in 1996 -- here in Western Canada, big cat management is decades behind. British Columbia doesn’t even have a cougar management plan and neither BC nor Alberta (the provinces with the largest wild cat populations) have solid science or ethical considerations behind their wild cat hunting or trapping regulations or quotas.
Both provinces still allow the highly controversial practice of hunting cougars, lynx, bobcats and black bears using gps-collared hounds. Hunters drive logging roads after a fresh snowfall and when they discover tracks, collared hounds are put onto the scent of the animal with the intention of following it and harassing it until it is treed. Once treed, the hunters -- who have been tracking their dogs from the comfort of a warm truck cab on an ipad or computer -- move in and kill the defenceless animal as a trophy.
"Here in Western Canada, big cat management is decades behind."
- John E. Marriott
All three Canadian wild cat species are hunted as trophies, not as food. Similarly, lynx and bobcats are trapped for their fur, not as food. These wild cats play critical roles in our Canadian ecosystems, much of which is not yet understood from a scientific level because of a lack of science. A ban on hound hunting and updates to hunting and trapping regulations will not only increase wildlife viewing opportunities for cougars, lynx and bobcats, but also allow the ecosystems they live in to function more naturally.
We are teaming with the Wildlife Defence League on this project with the end goal of producing a high-quality video documentary to help educate the public, raise awareness, increase research opportunities and put pressure on provincial governments to ban hound hunting and update their management plans and hunting and trapping regulations for cougars, lynx and bobcats in Canada. We need your help funding this project so that we can spend more time researching and developing this project, as well as more time in the field tracking big cats and laying out an extensive network of trail cameras to gather wild cougar, lynx and bobcat footage (John is also concurrently publishing a Big Cats of Canada book project based on this fieldwork).
We’re excited to announce two newly revised elements of social outreach we’ll be using to keep you informed about our progress as a conservancy!
Maurice Hornocker, Sharon Negri