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.