The Cecils in Our Backyard

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Like most people, I was horrified to read about the American trophy hunter's killing of the African lion known as Cecil.  Whether the animal has a human name or not, I believe trophy hunting of any kind is the lowest of the low, a macho driven waste of a precious life that doesn't come near to deserving the label of sport.

One of the biggest thrills of my life was seeing wild lions in Africa.  What I would also love to see though, but never have, is one of our own big wild cats, the North American mountain lion. The closest I have come was a fresh paw print and a tail drag in the snow. I turned and hiked the other way, not because I was particularly frightened, but because I felt I had come across something very special that needed quiet space, and that didn't include me.

Fortunately for California, years ago voters passed legislation that prohibits the killing of mountain lions unless a specific animal is a proven hazard to humans or livestock.  Although this kind of protection is vital, our lions now face a bigger threat, and that is loss of their habitat. A few months ago, residents of San Francisco were shocked to see photos of a mountain lion walking the city's streets, but this isn't the only place where this formerly unknown phenomenon has occurred. Mountain lions prefer to have no contact with people at all, but as a burgeoning human population expands into lion habitat, the more difficult it is for them to remain hidden. Education programs to encourage people in suburban and rural areas to keep domestic animals properly protected and to deer-proof yards are important, but even more essential is good development planning to allow space for mountain lions and their wild food, as well as habitat corridors to connect these spaces.  

I feel grateful that I live in a state where our own lions are protected from the fate dealt Cecil, but worry that through lack of planning and foresight, they could meet a more severe fate, the disappearance of this magnificent creature altogether.

With a Perspective, I'm Carol Arnold.


Carol Arnold is an environmental planner. She lives in San Francisco.