Posted by: petsweekly | June 30, 2010

Mountain Lions, Journalists and Other Mass Murderers

Mountain Lion Foundation, 2010

California passed Prop 117 over 20 years ago. The short version is that this is a prop that hunters hate and animal lovers proudly remind the hunters about. It protects mountain lions in the state of California.

In exploring this subject, I spent the last hour or so (you’ll see why it took so long in a minute) reading a column called “The Sportsman’s Corner” which was written by a Mr. Gary Roussan.  You probably haven’t heard of column, nor have you likely heard of the author. And if you haven’t heard of either of those, I’m confident you haven’t heard of the Willits News (yes, I spelled it correctly).

Now, I don’t like bashing writers. Besides the obvious “professional courtesy” issue, I think writing is art. Therefore, writing styles are subjective and art can’t be judged. Journalists, however, are different. They are held to a specific standard. They are expected to deliver the news in an unbiased way, focus on the facts, and try not to misspell anything. They even have editors to help them do this (a luxury that I do not have).  I freely admit that I’m a horrible journalist, which is why I try not to do that type of work. While I can generally make two sides heard, I prefer to use a lot of adjectives, force my opinions upon readers, and be controversial.

While I love to get my point across and be controversial, I also like helping people. And so tonight I thought I would do a little of both. We’ll illustrate the value of a good copywriter, demonstrate the benefits of research, and examine the importance of remaining neutral (heehee).  Meanwhile, I will take the opportunity to defend animals, which is my most favorite thing to do.

Roussan has afforded me an excellent opportunity to do both .  And so, for your evening’s entertainment, I would like to explore some of the more elegantly scribed sections of his well-penned masterpiece.

Let’s begin with his opening sentence:

“Wildlife management by ballot box is a perfect example of the insane way wildlife is managed by the the gullible public.”

Lesson 1 – Beginning A Report: The phrase, “gullible public” may be offensive to your readers.  “Insane” indicates that either you or your readers are crazy and it all just sort of sets everything off on a bad note.

The mountain lion is a carnivore, the largest and most ferocious in the United States (the black bear is omnivorous).

Lesson 2 – Not checking facts and insulting your readers intelligence: First off, the largest US carnivore is the Kodiak bear or polar bear. If you’re talking about the largest predator in California, that would be the Great White shark. There are a number of animals that fall between “the black bear” and the “mountain lion.”

Don’t insult your readers intelligence. I, for one, have never met a person who thought that mountain lions were vegans. And if I did meet someone who thought that cougars lived on vegetables and fruits, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t know what “carnivore” or “omnivorous” means…

It kills to eat at least once a week, but individual lions have been known to kill dozens of animals in one “romp” for simple pleasure, or to teach their cubs to hunt.

Lesson 3 – Wow… Really?: I don’t claim to be an expert in anything related to “big cats” but I have done a lot of research on them. I’ve never heard of one case where a pride has somehow raised a bloodthirsty serial killer cat that goes on midnight romps and slays dozens of animals at one time.

The only animals really capable of mass murder, or as Roussan so eloquently describes as a romp in which dozens of animals are killed, is a human.  I think he’s been watching that Val Kilmer movie, “Ghost and the Darkness” (which is really more in my line with my style of writing.)

Most chilling estimates indicate there are 15,000 to 20,000 lions in California.

Lesson 4 – Document your research: Which estimate was this number drawn from?

SB1058 seeks to ensure hunting license tag and stamp funds benefit game species and their habitats. The bill is sponsored by the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance.

“I am extremely pleased that my colleagues in the Assembly policy committee unanimously passed this important piece of conservation legislation,” said Harman. “I am hopeful it will make it all the way to the governor for signature.”

Lesson 5 – Check your facts: C’mon guy – you’re freaking killing me… It did make it all the way to the governor for a signature and it did pass. This morning Senator Fran Pavley gave the Mountain Lion Foundation a resolution stating how wonderful Prop 117 was and all the great things it has done for California’s wildlife.

Wolf arguments bring out protesters.

A federal judge in Missoula, Montana, heard arguments this week as the legal fight to remove wolves from the protected species category continues. Regardless of Judge Molloy’s ruling (return wolves to the endangered species list or allow states to continue managing the populations through hunting), the decision will most likely be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

According to our eyes on the ground, more than 100 protesters gathered in front of the courthouse to make their feelings known. One of the best signs held by a protester read, “Cap the Wolf Spill.”

Lesson 6 – Oh My God… Seriously – cap the wolf spill? Wolves bring out protesters? You’ve really got to be kidding me with this.  I’m trying to be impartial and fair.  I really am. You’re just making it so difficult…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Roussan is an avid Willits sportsman and conservationist.

Lesson 7 – I can’t even comment. Sportsman and conservationist? Really…

If anyone is interested in the FACTS from a verifiable source, please continue to read:

Fact: According to cougar expert, Dr. Maurice Hornocker, “…mountain lions will never overrun the countryside. These animals are very territorial and limit their own numbers.” A cougar leads a very solitary life, having little contact with others unless mating or mothering. The home range of a single, lone adult often spans 100 square miles. As a function of their territorial needs, social stability, and mutual avoidance, cougar populations tend to be widely dispersed and self-regulating which means that their numbers remain relatively constant.

Fact: The estimate of 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions residing in California is based on complex population models which take into consideration the amount of available habitat as well as data derived from radio-collared scientific studies which tracks the movement and behavior of lions.

Fact: According to Dr. Rick Hopkins, who has done extensive studies of cougars in California, trophy hunting can not keep Californians safe from mountain lions. As far as he is concerned, “a dead cougar cannot and does not teach the living lions to fear man.” Trophy hunting of mountain lions could in fact place more Californians at risk.

Fact: In addition to banning the trophy hunting of mountain lions, Proposition 117 directs the California State legislature to allocate a minimum of $30 million annually for thirty years towards the acquisition of critical habitat for all of the state’s wildlife. Since the Mountain Lion Foundation is not in the land acquisition business, none of these funds benefit our organization.

Fact: To date, Proposition 117 has helped acquire and protect over 2 million acres of critical habitat. Below is a breakdown of those acquisitions:

  • 305,183 acres for the protection of mountain lion and deer habitat.
  • 337,744 acres for the protection of special status species and significant habitat areas.
  • 267,261 acres for protection and restoration of wetlands habitat.
  • 1,170,649 acres for protection and restoration of fisheries and riparian habitat.
  • 143,221 acres of corridors, trails, and for interpretive programs.
  • 2,224,058 Total Acres Protected

For some accurate information on mountain lions nationally, please visit the Mountain Lion Foundation. If you think that Roussan needs to stop writing altogether, please email his editor, Dan McKee at and let him know. This kind of journalism should never be tolerated.


  1. Thanks for the great blog and for encouraging people to learn more about mountain lions. My favorite is Roussan’s opening line about ballot box wildlife management and the gullible public… I love the irony that it’s EXACTLY what he’s trying to achieve. He’s trying to trick everyone into thinking lions are ferocious and scary, and go vote to hunt them again. Hunting is for fun, not wildlife management, and not public safety. The protections of Prop 117 are based on actual facts (although the idea of “research” seems lost on him) and supported by the vast majority of Californians. Oh, and Prop 117 passed in 1990, that’s 20 years ago, not quite breaking news if you ask me. Roussan needs to get over it and perhaps get a new job…

  2. Great work here, Stacy! You write like you speak and that is ALWAYS a pleasure. A mountain lion was the first wiwld animal I ever saw in it’s natural habitat, so I have a bit of a soft spot for them. Dangerous to humans? Sure, if you frighten or anger them – just like any creature with a sense of self-preservation. As a child I found myself 20 yards away from one on a mountain trail in California. It looked at us, we looked at it, then it carried on walking and we turned around and went the other way. Seeing this beautiful animal where it belongs in nature was an awe-inspiring experience and the idea of some ill-informed macho hunter killing it as a trophy is sickening. Roussan has clearly demonstrated his lack of knowledge and ability to research his topic with this article. Using his position as a “journalist” to play on the ignorance and faith of his readers, while attempting to further his own tainted views is not only amateur, but contemptable. xxx

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