The anti-hunting group Arizonans for Wildlife, backed by groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Biological Diversity, recently took the first step to place on the ballot an initiative that would outlaw the hunting or trapping of bobcats and mountain lions. On Sept. 25, the group filed paperwork to allow it to collect signatures needed for the initiative.
Two other groups that are backing this initiative, Trap Free Montana and Footloose Montana, tried banning trapping on all public lands in Montana by ballot referendum in 2016. With nearly 63 percent of residents voting “no,” Montanans soundly defeated the initiative.
The anti-hunting groups have until July 2018 to gather 150,642 valid signatures on petitions to get the issue on the ballot. HSUS is anticipating the need to raise $3 to $5 million to get this initiative on the general ballot.
Arizona’s mountain lion and bobcat populations are regulated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) and both have robust populations. According to the AGFD, roughly 2,500 mountain lions roam Arizona. In 2015, hunters harvested 360 mountain lions. Well-regulated harvests keep the mountain lion and bobcat populations in check and ensure that prey species populations, including bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope, remain healthy.
This ballot initiative ignores the fact that regulated hunting is a necessary tool used by the state’s biologists to manage their wildlife. Wildlife professionals support science-based hunting programs and understand the role hunting plays in the management and conservation of their natural resources.
Sportsmen and women provide important funding for wildlife conservation and habitat management by funding the Pittman-Robertson Act. These funds support important conservation efforts, such as the acquisition and improvement of wildlife habitat, species introduction, research, public access programs, wildlife law enforcement and hunter education programs.