Cougar, puma, catamount, panther – all names for one of the most mystical animals of the Americas, the mountain lion. The allure of this cat has captivated the imagination of field biologists, hunters, animal lovers, and wildlife watchers all over the world. Once the largest ranging mammal in the Western Hemisphere, mountain lion sightings today are rare as these animals struggle to maintain a wild existence as human development encroaches into their habitat at an ever increasing rate.  

In the winter of 1999, an event occurred that would cast light on the collision of two worlds. The arrival and six-week stay of a mountain lion and her three cubs on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming would forevermore change how these elusive predators are perceived by those who hunt them and those who argue for their protection. This spectacle marked the first time in history a mountain lion has been documented in the wild for an extended period of time. 

Wildlife watchers, photographers, and filmmakers came from around the world to witness the once-in-a-lifetime event. The weekends were particularly popular. Every day, there were around 20 to 30 or 40 people at that one spot taking photographs. Thousands of people, possibly between 10,000 to 15,000 people that winter came out to see the mountain lions. 

But less than three months later, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would more than double the quota of mountain lions to be killed in the area, a decision that shocked the residents of the town of Jackson, pleasing only a few.  

The Cougar Fund was founded in 2001 by writer Cara Blessley Lowe and wildlife photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen after their firsthand experience observing the mother lion and her three cubs on the National Elk Refuge. Frequent collaborators, Blessley Lowe and Mangelsen produced a book titled “Spirit of the Rockies: The Mountain Lions of Jackson Hole” and a subsequent short film documentary on the historical event.  

These two pieces went on to garner major national media attention, broadly publicizing the principal issues facing cougars at the dawn of the 21st century: Lack of scientific data on cougar populations within state game agencies, inadequate regulations to protect female cougars and their dependent young, and a dwindling natural habitat further fragmented by human development.  

The Cougar Fund was founded to help ensure the conservation and protection of cougars throughout their range in the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Scientific research has shown that healthy cougar populations help to maintain healthy landscapes and biodiversity which humans depend on for clan water to drink, clean air to breathe, fertile soil in which to grow our food, for medicines derived from plants and other species, for personal and cultural inspiration, for physical and spiritual renewal and more. Our well-being and prosperity is inextricably linked to the health of natural landscapes, the myriad species that live in them and the intricate web of interdependent relationships that binds it all together. Conserving healthy and well-connected cougar populations not only helps us fulfill our moral obligation to protect nature but also yields immeasurable benefits to humans.  

Although viable cougar populations continue to exist throughout much of the western United States, decades of suppression through predator control and sport hunting are likely keeping them at levels at which they no longer play their crucial ecological roles. The Cougar Fund works to conserve cougar populations so they can continue to play their vital ecological role and therefore provide innumerable benefits to human society.  

The mission of the Cougar Fund is to protect the cougar and other carnivores throughout the Americas by educating children and adults on their value, and by monitoring state policies and advocating for management based on sound science, to assure a lasting place for these creatures.  

Thanks to Thomas D Mangelsen for his amazing photos and his continued passion and dedication to the protection of cougars, wolves, and bears
To learn more and to support the work of the Cougar Fund go to

The importance of Mountain Lions in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.


This article is a journalistic exploration into the VALUE of mountain lions on the landscape. The article also identifies how we can reduce our negative impact on them. To co-thrive  with lions, bears, and wolves, we must change the interpretation of their presence from public distrust and lack of knowledge to appreciation and respect.

Many apex predators are also keystone species, they are not pests and vermin. They are animals with a key role to play in sustaining  the environment for the benefit of all inhabitants.

The big picture for The Cougar fund is for humanity to segue from an attitude of utilitarianism to one of a duty of care for the animals themselves. Utilitarianism comes from the perspective of wildlife being present for human ‘use’. They are then managed for sport or for the over exaggerated threat to livestock growing, or even to reduce competition for prey  resources that humans view as a ‘right’.

Predation is hunting and hunting is predation. These are not two different concepts. The ecological contributions made by puma con color far outweigh the attitude of ‘ownership’ of wildlife that is prevalent in states’ policy making.

Credit for photo, Wild Nature Media with thanks to David Neils.







What does it take to really connect with Nature?

For people to care, especially about things they may rarely see, there must first be a ‘connection’, a bond, an indelible knowing that our mutual existences depend very much on the cognitive decision making of the human animal.

P22 shone a light on exactly how habitat loss impacts a single animal, yet represents every animal that will face the repercussions of unchecked encroachment, fragmentation, and the effects of anthropogenically accelerated events such as fire and flood caused by climate change.

P22 lived through every human caused experiment we could throw at him in the lab of LA, from rodenticide poisoning, vehicle strikes, pet conflict, tennis ball machine assault when he was only trying to hide, virtual incarceration in a territory probably only one tenth of what he would command in the wild, and yet he kept resisting our attempts to squeeze him off the face of this precious earth that is his as well as ours.

There are many who will say we should not name or identify a single wild animal for fear that we will careBut if we are to truly expect people everywhere to connect, there has to be a mechanism for caring. If naming an animal can get us involved in preventing harm to all of them by addressing  habitat loss, climate change and unilateral stakeholder decision making, then P22’s suffering through all those trials will not have been for nothing.

A President’s Unexpected Legacy

As we celebrate Presidents’ Day 2023, let’s take a look at the history of mountain lions in California over the last century. We’ll see why that state has come to be the best example of having both the worst challenges for lions in the form of huge development, and some of the most progressive solutions to help them thrive.

Mountain lions have long been an iconic symbol of the wild landscapes of California. However, in the early 20th century, their population was in sharp decline due to unregulated hunting, habitat loss, and conflicts with humans. It wasn’t until the latter half of the century that concerted efforts were made to protect them, thanks in large part to the efforts of conservationists, politicians, and activists.

In the mid-20th century, mountain lion hunting was widespread and largely unregulated in California. By the 1960s, it was clear that the population of mountain lions was in rapid decline. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that meaningful steps were taken to address the problem. In 1971, Governor Ronald Reagan signed a temporary moratorium on mountain lion hunting, marking a turning point in the conservation of these animals.

In the following years, conservation groups and animal welfare advocates worked to build on Reagan’s efforts to protect mountain lions in California. One of the most significant milestones in this effort was the passage of Proposition 117, a ballot measure that permanently banned the hunting of mountain lions in California. This proposition was led by the efforts of conservationists, including Sharon Negri, and a range of animal welfare groups who argued that the hunting of mountain lions was unnecessary and cruel.

Proposition 117 was approved by California voters in the November 1990 election, with 52% of voters in favor of the ban. This measure was the culmination of years of advocacy, political action, and scientific research aimed at protecting mountain lions from harm. William Newsom, former California appeals court judge and attorney, played an instrumental role in leading the campaign to pass the proposition and make the ban on mountain lion hunting permanent.

Today, mountain lions in California are protected under a range of regulations and conflict management policies.

The conservation of mountain lions in California is an ongoing success story, thanks to the work of dedicated advocates, researchers, and policymakers. The temporary moratorium signed by Ronald Reagan marked an important first step in protecting these animals from hunting, and subsequent efforts to make the ban permanent demonstrate the power of political action and advocacy in support of conservation.

Heightened public awareness of how mountain lion encounters are handled by authorities led to more successful advocacy following a sad incident at Half Moon Bay in 2019.

A law enforcement officer fatally shot two mountain lion kittens that were found near a residential area.

Two kittens were first discovered in a backyard in Half Moon Bay and were reported to authorities. A game warden was dispatched to the scene, but when he arrived, he found that the kittens had moved to a nearby public area. A sheriff’s deputy was then dispatched to assist with the situation.

According to reports, the deputy attempted to corral the kittens into a cage but was unsuccessful. At this point, he fired his weapon, killing both of the kittens. The incident sparked outrage among conservationists and animal welfare advocates, who argued that the use of lethal force was unnecessary and that the kittens could have been safely relocated.

Following the incident, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted an investigation and concluded that the use of lethal force was not justified. The department developed new protocols for handling mountain lion incidents, including improved training for law enforcement officers and a greater emphasis on non-lethal options for managing conflicts with these animals.

The Half Moon Bay incident highlighted the need for improved training and protocols when dealing with conflicts involving mountain lions and led to important changes in the way that these situations are handled in California. By prioritizing the safety of both humans and animals, California’s approach to mountain lion management represents a model for effective and responsible wildlife conservation.

Legislative News

The most challenging aspect of advocating for wildlife is the uncertainty of whether our efforts are making progress or if we are losing ground. This is particularly relevant when it comes to recognizing that every species plays a role in the ecosystem. 

Requesting consideration for the ecological impact of large carnivores is not just about emotions.

 The term “emotion” is often used to belittle individuals who have a different perspective on wildlife and its relationship with human presence. 

However, we are an emotional species at every level, not just those who advocate for a non traditional approach to managing our precious wildlife resources. The 10th Amendment of the Constitution assigns responsibility to each state This responsibility is actually held in the public trust for all people, similar to clean water and air.

It is hard to comprehend  the “sport” hunting of mountain lions, which is allowed in 14 out of the 16 states with breeding populations. It is important to understand that “sport” hunting is a hobby, and while some hunters may eat the meat of the animal they hunt, this is not their primary motivation. In states where bears, lions, and wolves are classified as Trophy Game and there is no wanton waste statute, nothing is required to be taken back except proof of the animal’s sex and a tooth for data recording. Often only parts that can be hung, mounted, or walked on, are retrieved.

In Wyoming, hunt areas have reached their “harvest mortality limits” for lions quickly, and hunters who use hounds have lobbied to continue chasing lions until the end of the season, even after the limit has been reached.

This extended chase season is not a harmless alternative to killing. It is in addition to the long days and weeks of pursuing lions from September 1st until the limit is met.

The Cougar Fund has grave concerns about adding to the already harsh mountain lion hunting opportunity.

Mountain lions are a keystone species

A keystone species is a species in an ecosystem that plays a critical role in maintaining the balance of that ecosystem. Its presence and impact on the ecosystem are much larger than would be expected based on its abundance. The loss of a keystone species can cause significant changes to the ecosystem, potentially leading to a cascade of effects that alter the balance of the ecosystem and the interactions between its species.

  • Hounding mountain lions can disturb the balance of the ecosystem by driving lions out of their territory and leading to competition for food and resources and intra-species conflict.
  • It can also cause significant stress to the animal, especially female lions who may have young not traveling with them and become separated.
  • It can lead to the death of the animal, either from the hounds themselves or from the lion’s inability to find food or shelter after being chased out of its habitat.
  • This practice can  be cruel, as the animal may be tracked for long distances and chased for hours before finding refuge in a tree or cave. (Most hunting occurs when an animal is unaware of its fate)
  • The hounds can also kill kittens that cannot climb to safety.
  • Being chased by hounds is not a hazing tool; lions are simply cats that climb to escape, a remnant from a time before humans when they had to escape large canids on the landscape.
  • Lions are often near where they can find food, so constant hounding will also affect the winter range of ungulates during their most vulnerable time of the year.
  • Chasing lions through the end of March coincides with the critical last two months of deer pregnancy, when the doe’s health is vital for the viability of the fawn.

Let’s remember when we hear that a season has closed and there is a problem because there are hounds that can no longer be trained or exercised but have to be fed, is that having these hounds is a choice, a hobby.  Should our wildlife really be expected to pay for those choices?

It doesn’t bring back the herds!

Let’s look at predation from the perspective of the management agencies and the funding model upon which they survive.

In a nutshell revenue comes from hunting and fishing licenses, and the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which is an excise tax on guns, ammunition, and other firearms accessories, collected by the federal government and reapportioned to the states according to hunting activity. The Dingell-Johnson Act offers similar financial support to states for fish restoration and management projects.

Where there is a monopoly of funding, it follows that there will also be a monopoly of policy and in the case of wildlife management it helps to take a very brief look back at how it happened.

Following westward expansion and settlement, wildlife became a commodity on a much larger scale than that of the early fur trappers who were scattered about the west. Massive herds were lost to commercial endeavor, bounties were put on large carnivores. Bears, mountain lions, and wolves were vilified, persecuted and in many places extirpated by wanton destruction. No-one really cared about the role of the predators, in fact, when the realization dawned that the ungulate herds were in trouble the hatred for the predators increased.

The ‘call to action’ to try and save elk and deer was the introduction of regulated hunting. The 10th amendment of the constitution gives states jurisdiction over the wildlife within their borders, so the first iteration of the modern day state wildlife agency was born.

In return for buying a license and agreeing to be limited in their opportunity to hunt by season and number of animals that could be removed from the population, a tacit agreement of sorts was seeded, that the agency would continue to do its best to provide a ‘crop’ of wildlife at a stable and sustainable rate. It is no coincidence that even though we know the very foundation of survival is the predator/prey relationship, and that is not, by any means a bad thing, hunters do not ‘kill’ their prey, they ‘harvest’ it.

Mountain lions eat deer. Mountain lions kill deer to eat them, they are good at it. Mountain lions and deer have lived together on the north american continent for at least the last 10,000 years and lions have not wiped out their food source!

When added pressure is put on lions and other predators as a way to recover herds it is palliative and political. It is done for the optics of seeming to take an action that will pacify constituents who think there is more control over the natural world than there is.

Biologists work hard to make sure that original tacit contract of providing regular crop to hunt and harvest. In fact, no species has actually been extirpated since hunting regulations became the acceptable method of wildlife management, although, the grizzly bear came awfully close.

But the question is, is this wildlife or agriculture in the wild?

Nature actually does not work to a schedule of production, it is wilder, less predictable, a series of highs and lows, adaptations, randomness.

That is why pretending that killing more mountain lions is going to bring back the herds is disingenuous, not only to the people who mistakenly believe it, but to the grand design that has so many more threads than just the single one you think you can control.

Attitudes! Are they based on Fact or fiction?

Why does The Cougar Fund invest so much time and energy in education? We really have to look no further than a quick overview of what people already think they know about mountain lions and the impact lions have on various aspects of human lives and interests.

Let’s start with the name, or to be more specific, the names.

Mountain lions, cougars, puma, catamount, painter, ghost cat, panther, klandaghi, these are just a few of the most common nouns for the large wild cat, technically, the puma concolor, or cat of one color. It is thought that many names came into existence because lions were so widespread and community interaction, especially in indigenous times, was limited, therefore, each tribe or settlement used their own term to describe a lion. However the descriptives came about, we do know that ancient members of the wild cat family, or felidae, existed with early man on the african continent, which we now understand to be the seat of humanity, so our history sharing the landscape with this magnificent and mysterious felid is a long one.

It is interesting that how we ‘feel’ about an animal’s name and presence often drives our attitude towards it and how we anticipate the behavior, even the ‘motives’ of that animal.

Completely wild! remote videography courtesy of David Neils.

Fear and public safety

In the previous paragraph describing our co-evolution with big cats, the presence of primal fear in the human animal, with its inherent lack of strength, speed, big teeth, and long strong claws, is quite understandable. Fast forward to the cognitive revolution and our ever developing ability to enhance the creative ways we can not only protect ourselves, but also destroy threats against us. We can use our powers of deductive reasoning to adapt to our environment in ways that will reduce the risks of harm coming to us, and allow us move about in places where wildlife is trying to eke out an existence in habitat that is being carved away. You will find specific details of how to live and recreate in cougar country here. Understanding the natural history and behavior of the mountain lion through education can be empowering, and can replace paralysing fear with respect.

Situational awareness, and the ability to stay calm, focused and know what to do in the event you find yourself, however unlikely, in a conflict situation, function like a seatbelt in a vehicle. It is not a 100% guarantee, but statistics show that such tools are your best protection. That, in addition to the cold hard fact that fatal attacks by mountain lions on the entire North American continent have numbered less than 30 in over 125 YEARS. We can put that in perspective if we understand that dogs kill, on average, about 30 people a year, the most vulnerable being young children, and cows, kill 20 people per year. More information that gives context to the risks of a wild animal attack can be found in this short video

You can now see, from what we have discussed, that the actual threat presented by living and recreating in mountain lion country is actually very small. The elusive and avoidant nature of mountain lions together with the statistical evidence that attacks are indeed, exceedingly rare, shows us that the public attitude may be based on a belief system about mountain lions that is based largely on incomplete information. That is why education is a huge priority for The Cougar Fund.

In our next blog we will continue to examine how attitudes shape responses to cougars when we look at hunters, hobby ranchers, and other livestock producers.

Caring without Despairing

Oh dear, you just received another ‘call to action’ in your mail. You want to help, you really do. You have written letters in the past, you have even gone to meetings where decisions are made, but does your voice ever get heard?

Honestly, it is hard to say, categorically, that the public comment system in most of the states where regulations are adjudicated, serves the fair hearing of diverse viewpoints.

Going to the meetings is so very important, but your preparation for the meeting is even more important, and that is the purpose of this blog.

When a decision is to be made about a wildlife regulation before an agency commission, usually appointed by the state’s governor, the options that are presented to them are the result of many weeks of departmental investigation, analysis, recommendation, and sifting through of written public comments. The general disposition of those comments, although all are kept on file, is that the main points are mined and tabulated and presented. We must always remember that this is NOT A VOTE. In state comments are prioritized, while out-of-staters, unless from bordering habitat, are usually viewed as ‘outsiders’. It does not matter how many people are passionate about a particular subject, be it for, or against something, the numbers, unless coming from the traditional constituency that funds wildlife agencies, rarely have an effect. In fact, any form letters that an organization sends you, that you simply sign, will only be counted as ONE public comment, no matter how many are turned in. Commissioners are probably not going to overturn departmental recommendations at a meeting, even if it is packed to the gills with advocates, especially if the regulation comes up once every three years and that is the only time they will see you. It is still important to be there.

Is there a better path forward? Well, let’s look at why there is such lopsided willingness to listen to citizens about what happens with wildlife, afterall, it is held in the Public Trust for all of us. It’s all about the money.

The system of funding of wildlife management agencies is based on three main sources of income. Revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal excise tax dollars from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts and a lesser amount from grants.

(It should be noted here, that while Pittman-Robertson money is raised through a tax on firearms and archery equipment, only 20% is the purchase of guns and bows used for hunting, the other 80% is hobby shooting/archery and/or personal or home security. However it is distributed according to the number of hunters in each state.)

There are a few states that have bountiful resources of wildlife and they have seen a definite uptick in interest in hunting, although there has been resistance from within the states to an increase in out of state hunting! Other states are seeing measureable drops in interest in hunting.

Knowing all this, where the money comes from, who gets heard, who doesn’t, we understand that it isn’t always easy to step up and speak out for the animals you care about. The Cougar Fund would like to help! If you would like to know more about being prepared, understanding state policies and procedures, gaining confidence to testify or write letters without relying on a form, please email us When there is a deadline for comment or a meeting looming, it can be intimidating, so let us help you get prepared ahead of time. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. We are happy to chat or zoom, or help in any way. You are important and together, the only limits are those of vision.

Enjoying without Destroying

2020 is finally behind us and, honestly, who knows what 2021 will bring? If we have learned anything from the past year, it has been that we need each other to not only face the bad times but also to bring each other through them. At a time when we have never felt more separated, it has been the one-on-one with loved ones, even if only be phone or zoom, that has got us through-together.

So, let’s start 2021 together, with a weekly look at events that shape our world and consequently shape us. Or is it the other way around do WE shape our world, and is that the event that everything then has to live with, including the habitat and animals that depend on it?

Last summer, with COVID 19 raging and people unable to travel for vacations, many decided to explore the jewels of national and state parks, and national forests, right here in the US. Those vacations ticked all the boxes, they were outside, gas was cheap, so an RV could be rented and the family isolated without having to stay in motels or eat in restaurants. Camping was an option for the fitter and more adventurous, and it all seemed, well, so wholesome, and harmless, and such a relief, from the lockdown and the fear.

And it was, and it IS!

To be in nature is like coming home. She feeds us, she nurtures us, she lifts our spirits, she instills a feeling of belonging, she launders out the bad feelings and makes us crisp and clean again. She helps us clamber to places where we can see visions for our future that are clear and hopeful. When we are in nature we are connected. Each breath pulls in what is around us and our hearts beat throughout our entire bodies and we feel truly alive.

There is a word we often use in the environmental world, it is ‘balance’. Scientists do not use this word, but it is applicable here, because what we are really talking about is cause and effect. The reciprocal aspects of what we ‘get out of’ nature and what we do to get it. Is there even a measurement for what we get out of nature? I doubt it. Sylvia Plath, in The Bell Jar, said ‘I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, This is what it is to be happy.’ But at what cost? How do we balance what we take away from the landscape with what we expect it to keep renewing? Are we anticipating too much of nature’s resilience in sustaining some species? After all, an environment will still be an environment, even if we have destroyed the fragile infrastructure of all the native plants residing there, it will just be an environment, probably filled with hardier invasives or even bare dusty or muddy areas.

An article published last year by the Citizen Times examined the damage and degradation inflicted upon parts of the Appalachian Trail and the steps taken to rehabilitate the worst of the abuse. The most important aspect of this story is that it was duplicated over and over again across the country, and while there were valiant efforts to mitigate the damage both on the AT and in other areas, there is never enough money or manpower in the federal or state or local agencies to repeatedly clean up. The negative effects of recreational use may be due to a number of factors, carelessness, inexperience, arrogance, lack of a system that regulates use, abuse of the system that regulates use, naivety about the fact that humans enjoying nature might also be destroying her.

Remember the paragraph about how wonderful it feels to ‘come home to nature’? Well, the crux of this article and the deeply meaningful point that we want you to consider this New Year’s week is that when the incredible privilege to feel you have ‘come home’ in nature happens, you really haveinto someone else’s actual home. Into the home of animals who have no alternatives, who cannot go back to another life, who are living in the only place that they can, and that place is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Habitat loss is the single greatest threat to wildlife today. We chew away at habitat in so many different ways, we encroach, we fragment, we build roads without safe crossings and the irony is that the animals are amazingly tolerant and adaptable, if only we would be thoughtful in how we develop and recreate. People are not an AND with nature, we are a PART of nature, that is why we crave and then recognize that connection we feel when we are able to be out in it as happened last summer. Let’s all be gentle with our home so that the cougars, the bears, the wolves, the coyotes, the deer, the elk, the moose, the martens, the herons, the otters, and every other non-human housemate we share it with can live peacefully and well.

Authorities in Oregon investigate as yet unconfirmed human fatality by a mountain lion

UPDATE September 14th 2018

ODWF has now announced the removal of an adult female cougar in the area where Diana Bober’s backpack was found. There is no evidence available yet to link this cougar with the fatal attack on Diana. ODFW does, however, speculate, that the cougar’s proximity to the scene is indicative of known cougar behavior.

In an astonishing statement, ODFW has said it will continue to kill cougars in the area until a ‘match’ is found.

Prior story:

For the second time this year, the awful news has come across our devices, our TV’s or been heard on the radio….there have been not one, but two, tragic human deaths in 2018 associated with the elusive, powerful, and yes, still wild, mountain lion.

While it is true that human deaths caused by mountain lions are extremely rare, and in the last 125 years, fatal human tragedy has occurred  just 27 times, it is also true that no statistic or opinion will ease the grief of loved ones who have suffered such a loss. Our priority must always be with the families of victims, who are so in need of our compassion and respect; and with the passage of time buy valtrex 500 necessary for the professionals to do their job in discovering what might have happened.

A tragedy like this should not become a mission to apportion blame or promote any particular agenda. As more details unfold, there will be a chance for all of us to become informed based on fact and not conjecture.

We urge the authorities in Oregon to take a measured and proactive approach, that does NOT include random killing of cougars in the area, where this tragic interaction happened. Please take the time to sedate, examine, and take pathological samples from any lions you find, fit them with gps collars and await the results of all forensic investigation, before deciding which lion, and why (disease, starvation, disability, injury, poisoning, reproductive status, age and condition) was involved. Whatever decision you then make will be a response to the type of evidence your scientists hold in high regard and NOT  a reaction to appease fear and provide a false sense of security for the understandably concerned public.

Compassion and perspective are the best tools for both managers and the public when dealing with such primal events.