Arizona voters have shown time and time again at the ballot box that wildlife protection and animal cruelty issues matter to them – whether they’re voting to protect animals from cruel, body-gripping traps on public lands, voting to outlaw cockfighting, or voting to retain their right to have a say in how wildlife is managed. In keeping with this tradition, Arizonans for Wildlife is seeking to put a measure on the November 2018 ballot that would prohibit the trophy hunting, including by cruel hounding and trapping, of mountain lions, bobcats, jaguars, ocelots and lynx.

After the death of Cecil, a beloved lion killed by a trophy hunter in Zimbabwe, Africa the world was exposed to the horror of trophy hunting, where the primary motivation is to kill or pursue an animal in order to display their body, whole or in part, or for bragging rights but not for subsistence. Although the overwhelming majority of Arizona voters do not support trophy hunting, thousands of mountain lions and bobcats are killed by trophy hunters every year.1

Although jaguars, ocelots and lynx are protected under federal law, these rare and imperiled species may be accidentally shot, trapped or killed by hounds during mountain lion and bobcat trophy hunting seasons. We must act now to save Arizona’s wild cats before it’s too late!


Mountain lions and bobcats are legally killed using extremely cruel and inhumane methods.

Currently, Arizona places NO limits on the number of bobcats that can be killed. In fact, an average of over four thousand bobcats have been killed each year over the past five years. Although Arizona voters resoundingly said “no” to the use of steel-jawed leghold traps, body-crushing traps, and snares on public land with Proposition 201 in 1994, thousands of bobcats are still trapped every year using these barbaric devices on private land, and with cage traps on public land. Trapping mountain lions is prohibited in Arizona, but records show that mountain lions are routinely trapped inadvertently in other states where trapping them is illegal because these devices do not discriminate between species. While in the trap, animals sustain serious injuries, including broken limbs and broken teeth, dislocated shoulders, lacerations, fractures, amputation of paws or whole legs, or even chew off their limbs trying to escape, or die from exposure. Because trappers are only required to check the traps once a day, animals could be stuck in excruciating pain for hours.

Mountain lion mothers spend up to 24 months raising and provisioning for their kittens. If a mother is killed by a trophy hunter, her kittens will likely die from predation, dehydration, starvation or exposure. As biologists have found, kittens are unlikely capable of dispatching prey until they are 12 months of age. This means that trophy hunters routinely kill not only the mother, but also her orphaned young kittens, who cannot survive on their own until they are one year old.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department also permits hounding of our wild cats. An unlimited number of radio-collared, trailing hounds are permitted to chase mountain lions or bobcats.2 Both the hunted animal and the dogs can be exhausted by the extreme heat in Arizona during the high-stress chase. In addition to being cruel, this method of hunting puts the dogs at risk of being mauled, and if dogs get lost during a hunt, they are often abandoned and left to be killed by other animals or dumped into shelters.

Furthermore, cats are ambush predators; their lungs cannot withstand a long-distance chase. To elude the hounds, they will retreat into a tree or on a rock ledge, enabling the hunting guide and his high-paying trophy-hunting client to easily locate his hounds. The trophy hunters typically shoot the wild cats at close range. Hounding poses significant risk to the hounds as well as to young wildlife, including dependent kittens, who may be attacked and killed by the hounds. Hounds also flush and startle many species, including large ungulates such as elk, deer and desert bighorn sheep.


Ocelots and jaguars are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and lynx are listed as threatened. While these cats have federal protections, they still face serious threats from trophy hunting and trapping. Some hunting dogs will target species other than mountain lions or bobcats. Arizona’s rare cats may also be accidentally chased or killed by hounds during state-sanctioned, mountain lion- and bobcat-hunting seasons, along with other vulnerable wildlife, who are killed or startled and flushed by hounds, including ungulates such as elk or mule deer. Because hounds do not understand boundaries, many stray on to lands where they do not belong including private property or on National Park Service lands.

Traps are notoriously indiscriminate and often catch other non-target animals, including endangered species or even livestock or wild ungulates. Every year lynx are inadvertently killed in traps meant for bobcats. By allowing these traps, we are further jeopardizing lynx, and other wild cat survival in Arizona. Because of the inherently indiscriminate nature of hounds and traps, jaguars, ocelots and lynx remain at imminent risk of being accidentally caught and/or killed by hounds or in steel-jawed leghold traps set for bobcats on private lands.

If we don’t stop this cruel trapping and hounding now, and jaguar, ocelot, and lynx populations do manage to grow enough to make it off the Endangered Species List, these methods could be used to kill them, threatening their populations once more.


Reliable research shows us that wild cats need freedom from hunting in order to persist. We can help them by ending cruel trophy hunting and trapping in Arizona, as the overwhelming majority of their struggles come from human-caused mortality.

When trophy hunters repeatedly remove the prime, breeding animals, it harms the population’s health and reduces individuals’ fitness because the strongest, heartiest animals are removed from the gene pool.

Every year in Arizona, thousands of mountain lions and of bobcats are legally killed just for a peltskin rug, skull or an entire body mount. Yet, trophy hunting kills far more wildcats than just the ones in the crosshairs. When a trophy hunter kills an adult male mountain lion or bobcat, social chaos ensues. Several immigrant male (often “subadults” or teenagers) lions or bobcats vie for the now-dead, adult male’s territory. These subadults will kill the kittens from the previous sire so they can breed with the females in order to pass down their genes. The Arizona Game and Fish Department never counts these kittens (and sometimes the females themselves, who fight to protect their kittens) in the state’s wildcat-death tolls.

Contrary to pro-trophy hunting rhetoric, trophy hunting and trapping wild cats does not make humans, pets or livestock safer and can actually exacerbate potential conflicts. By removing the stable adult animals from the population, the incoming young male immigrant wild cats often find themselves in conflict with livestock or occasionally with humans. Trophy hunting animals is a poor way to manage wildlife. The best available science shows that trophy hunting wild cats can cause harm to livestock and people. When people have conflicts with wildlife, several non-lethal options are available and must be used first before killing. Human-animal conflicts are rare as wild cats typically avoid people.

Mountain lions provide valuable benefits to Arizona’s ecosystems and other wildlife.

They promote greater biological diversity (more fish, amphibians and variety of plants) and support the natural functions of entire ecosystems, especially to desert riparian areas. And because mountain lions cache, or hide, their prey under snow or debris such as pine needles, they leave carrion, or leftover food scraps, for scavengers including black bears, California condors and eagles. Their carrion also feed hundreds of species of beetles and enriches the soils when the prey animal breaks down. In this way, too, mountain lions benefit biological diversity.

Mountain lions help moderate the deer and elk population by removing the sick and weak animals, including those infected by prion disease such as chronic wasting disease (CWD). By reducing the herd size, not only do prey animals avoid exceeding Arizona’s arid lands’ carrying capacity, (that is, the maximum load the environment can sustain without degradation). Mountain lions also help by preventing costly and deadly vehicle accidents that typically involve deer and elk. Mountain lions also keep deer and elk herds on the move, reducing potential over-browsing or over-grazing. By protecting Arizona’s mountain lions, they can balance nature’s systems, increasing biological diversity, reducing wildlife disease and preventing deadly vehicle collisions.


The ballot measure would only prohibit the trophy hunting and trapping of five wild cat species: mountain lions, bobcat, jaguars, lynx and ocelots, with narrow exemptions.

Key provisions include:

  • A personal shall not “take” – which means pursuing, shooting, hunting, fishing, trapping, killing, capturing, snaring or netting – a mountain lion, bobcat, jaguar, lynx or ocelot.

  • The measure would authorize exceptions for killing a wild cat that threatens an individual’s personal safety and the removal of wild cats that target livestock or property.

  • The measure would allow for legitimate conservation activities by researchers, zoos, rehabilitation facilities, and wildlife managers or other purposes as authorized by law.

  • The measure would authorize exceptions for law enforcement officers or licensed veterinarians acting in the course and scope of their official duties

  • The measure would not apply to Native American sovereign lands.

  • The ballot measure, if enacted, shall take effect immediately.

By passing this measure, Arizona voters will help ensure the preservation of these wild cat species by prohibiting their needless and inhumane killing by shooting, trapping, or the use of packs of dogs, and shielding them from trophy hunters looking to kill them for their heads or just for the thrill of it. This will also protect their dependent kittens from an agonizing death if their mothers or fathers are killed.

1 Based on data between 2010 and 2014.

2 Ariz. Admin. Code R. 12-4-304(A)(8)(k)