Killing a predatory animal for humans to have the opportunity to kill its prey.

No, we are not talking about terrestrial large carnivores. This is about the majestic American White Pelican. The pelican is federal protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 . Thats right! More than a century ago when utilitarianism was rampant, Congress recognized the needs of migrating birds and reined in the diabolical clear cutting of many natives species. And yes, we digress a little by posting about pelicans, but it is a fact that pelicans are another example of the contributions of a large predatory species that serve the ecological needs of maintaining a healthy landscape.

Ironically, their feeding behavior is similar to the teamwork of wolves.

 They also forage cooperatively: groups of birds dip their bills and flap their wings to drive fish toward shore, corralling prey for highly efficient, synchronized, bill-dipping feasts Source

The notion that killing one species to protect another is endemic and pervasive, and has recently been challenged by sound scientific research. In this case, it is not even the protection of prey, but simply for the satisfaction of fish in a private water resource

Here is just a little information about what those ecological services are.

  • They used to be shot for sport or because it was thought that they competed with humans for fish—though they are now understood to take fish of little commercial value. Source
  • As top predators in aquatic ecosystems, American White Pelicans help to regulate fish populations, contributing to a balanced and healthy ecosystem. The presence of American White Pelicans can serve as an indicator of water quality and ecosystem health, as these birds rely on clean water and abundant fish populations for their survival.
  • American White Pelicans play a role in nutrient cycling within their habitats, as their guano (droppings) provides a rich source of nutrients that support plant growth and the overall productivity of the ecosystem. By attracting birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, American White Pelicans can contribute to local economies through ecotourism, fostering an appreciation for the natural world and promoting conservation efforts.
  • American White Pelicans can also serve as a flagship species for conservation, drawing public attention to the need for habitat protection and restoration efforts in aquatic ecosystems. Source

Predation is a fact of life in nature. It is vital to the health of prey species and the environment. We must work hard to nullify the old cultural values that seek to slaughter predators whether they are fur, feathers, aquatic species, or invertebrates.

In this is sad and disturbing revelation we discover that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department did have the option of taking wolf abuser Cody Roberts to court. This undermines all trust in the department. One observation that The Cougar Fund has is that the questions that led to this admission came from the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association Executive Vice-President. Agricultural interests are at the forefront of lack of respect for predators and the resulting unbelievably cruel practices they use to eliminate them. Perhaps these questions by Jim Magagna indicate a strategic liaison between WGFD and the Stockgrowers to show that there are in fact greater consequences, and that Legislative changes to the statutes that allow and even promote such inhumane treatment of sentient animals are not necessary.…/…

Respected scientists identify that the historic value of predators has largely been ignored

The News

An article released today by identifies a study of long term trends in wildlife ecology that seem to obviate the historical contributions of large carnivores in research of other species. This could not be further from the truth.



The Study

A shifting ecological baseline after wolf extirpation

In this peer reviewed, published analysis led by Drs. Ripple, Wolf, and Beschta  scientists track how the presence of wolves and other large carnivores has not been viewed from the perspective of their historical ranges and ecological impacts.

This is a fascinating study of years of prior scientific papers and provides insight into tangible holes in that research. By excluding  the effects of and changes to the environment that keystone species make, it has led to studies of other species as segregated instead of part of the overarching ecology of an ecosystem.

“A shifting ecological baseline after wolf extirpation Studying an altered ecosystem without recognizing how or why the system has changed over time because of the absence of a large predator could have serious implications for wildlife management, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem restoration, like diagnosing a sick patient without a baseline health exam.”

Seeing the results

A view of riparian vegetation along a portion of Yellowstone's Blacktail Deer Creek in May 1991. Suppressed heights of willows and alders along the valley illustrate the effects of decades of intensive elk herbivory that occurred following the loss of wolves. Streambank erosion is also occurring along the outside of each meander bend. Credit: D. Garfield

A view of riparian vegetation along a portion of Yellowstone’s Blacktail Deer Creek in May 1991. Suppressed heights of willows and alders along the valley illustrate the effects of decades of intensive elk herbivory that occurred following the loss of wolves. Stream bank erosion is also occurring along the outside of each meander bend. Credit: D. Garfield.

A repeat of the 1991 photo is taken in September 2023. Extensive recovery of riparian willows and alders have occurred following the return of wolves—stabilizing streambanks, shading the stream with canopy cover, and providing improved habitats for terrestrial and aquatic biota. Credit: R. Beschta

A repeat of the 1991 photo is taken in September 2023. Extensive recovery of riparian willows and alders have occurred following the return of wolves—stabilizing stream banks, shading the stream with canopy cover, and providing improved habitats for terrestrial and aquatic biota. Credit: R. Beschta

Photos courtesy of Thomas D Mangelsen unless otherwise credited.


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.

A pretty cool interview by The Guardian with Cougar Fund Director Dr. Jane Goodall

We are always inspired when one of our Directors pops up in a news feed and we will be bringing you more insights into the things that inspire them to support the issues that we all care about. Each Director brings special knowledge, passion, experience and skill to our organization. Dr Jane Goodall changed the face of how the world looks at animals when she observed that man is not the only ‘tool maker’. She made it, not only OK, to identify animals by name (imagine if all our dogs and cats and horses were just a number!) but also the best way to remember their sentience and sensitivity. Thank you Dr Jane, you have changed our relationship with the natural world by striving to make the human world more humane.

Mountain Lions matter

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign recently published a study that compounds previous evidence of the positive role large carnivores, such as cougars, have on the landscape. Known as a keystone species,  just like in architecture, lions’ presence or absence ‘holds up’ or ‘destabilizes’ the rest of a structure. In nature it is other species-both flora and fauna.

The more scientists ask questions about the ecological contributions of large carnivores and invest effort into answering those questions, the more juxtaposed the traditional view of mountain lions as nuisance, vermin, or objects of sport becomes.

  • Editor’s notes:

    To reach Alex Avrin, email

    To reach Max Allen, email

    The paper “Can a mesocarnivore fill the functional role of an apex predator?” is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.

    DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.4383


    Michael Jeffords and Susan Post are wildlife photographers and research affiliates of the Illinois Natural History Survey at the Prairie Research Institute of the U. of I. Their photographs are available here.

It can’t be completed soon enough.

Sadly, another mountain lion was killed on a highway in Southern California this week. This comes on the heels of the vehicle collision death of four year old P81 on January 22nd this year. These human caused mortalities are a microcosm of the impacts that we have on the landscape.

There is not much indication that growth will slow down, but how we plan and consider the needs of the wildlife and the habitat that development is invading has to become a priority everywhere.

Due for completion in 2025, the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing in Southern California will represent a landmark cooperative effort between state agencies, federal departments, non governmental organizations  and passionate support from an inspired public, tired of the constant human costs and wildlife casualties from vehicle collisions on congested and expanding highway systems.

Probably the most elusive, yet ironically public symbol of collateral damage is the majestic cougar. For a species once native to all of the Americas, loss of habitat by encroachment and fragmentation has become an enormous threat. In the few states where mountain lions still remain and where development is at an all time high, lions have become confined to semi island populations that limit genetic diversity and where lions have displayed signs of inbreeding such as tail deformities and heart malformations.

Wildlife crossings, which benefit all animals that use them (even crabs on Christmas Island in Australia!) allow for genetic diversity, expanded range-famous P22 survived in an area 1/9th a male lion’s unrestricted territory- preventing overuse of forage, limiting disease spread by allowing dispersal of herds and keeping migratory routes patent.

Thanks to all the partners that made this project possible. Wildlife Crossings can be a wonderful focus of common ground for all people that care about animals and want to see them safely across the road.