Kansas lawmaker targets mountain lions, conservationists say 'no'

After years of reported sightings, Kansas wildlife officials last fall finally confirmed the presence of a live mountain lion in the state.

Now, a state legislator wants to make it legal to hunt them.

Conservationists say that is just silly, or worse. There certainly are mountain lions — also called cougars — in Kansas and Missouri. But wildlife experts say their numbers are few and they should be left alone.

Still, Rep. Mitch Holmes, a Republican from west-central Kansas cattle country, says his constituents are concerned for their own safety and that of their animals. Ranchers report their livestock get spooked and won’t come in for water. Horse owners find their animals injured.

"A constituent of mine heard something on the front porch and there was her dog, nose to nose with a cougar," he said.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture does not record livestock attacks by mountain lions, but has not heard of any, either, said Deputy Secretary Constantine Cotsoradis.

Holmes introduced a bill to allow people to hunt mountain lions without a license, but that was opposed as unnecessary by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The bill would not have accomplished what Holmes wanted, anyway, so he now plans to directly ask the Wildlife and Parks Commission to create a mountain lion-hunting season.

That would allow trophy hunters to seek out the elusive creatures that were once native to the Great Plains, but were eradicated in the 19th century. Now they are coming back in some areas.

It now is illegal in Kansas and Missouri to hunt mountain lions. But in both states it is permissible to shoot one that is threatening humans or their animals. Keeping the carcass or pelt, however, is illegal.

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