Franchesca Esplin, a hunter in Colorado, is facing backlash after posting pictures of herself with a mountain lion she had killed. The post included Esplin holding the dead animal, displaying bloody hands, and included a message that the hunt had been at the top of her “bucket list.”
The photos were slammed by the conservation group Prairie Protection Colorado. The group wrote on Facebook, “It is OUR RESPONSIBILITY as people who care about wildlife to END the insanity of killing for pleasure.” Esplin has since made all of her social media pages private in light of the backlash.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Franchesca Esplin Wrote on Facebook That She Was ‘Beyond Grateful’ To ‘Harvest’ the Mountain Lion & Said She Was on ‘Cloud 9’
The screengrab shared by Prairie Protection Colorado shows that Franchesca Esplin’s hunt occurred in December of 2018. The exact date is unclear. She wrote that she was excited to have shared the experience with her husband and children. She included, “Anyone that knows me, has known that this hunt has been at the top of my bucket list FOREVER.”
Esplin also explained in the post that they used dogs as part of the hunt. She wrote, “being there in person seeing the cat in the tree and watching/hearing the hounds work is hands down the most amazing thing to experience. My hat goes off to these houndmen that train their dogs to go chase these lions.”
Esplin appears to have shot the mountain lion once the dogs had cornered it in the tree. She goes on to explain that her husband, Bobby, had to climb the tree to carry the lion down “because he got hung up on the branch he was laying on.”
Praire Protection Colorado slammed the use of hunting dogs in a post on February 28. The group wrote, “Franny clearly articulated as commentary to her grotesque pictures glee and happiness in killing another sentient being. Adding insult to injury, they used dogs to tree this mountain lion with GPS technology and then rushed out there to shoot the lion who was trapped up in a tree trying to find sanctuary from a pack of trained hunting dogs. This in no way was a ‘fair’ hunt. This kill was unethical, and even though she says she ate the lion, that does not make this anything more than a sadistic trophy kill.”
2. Esplin Has a Hunting Permit & Says Her Family Used the Entire Lion
Franchesca Esplin has argued against the idea that this was a “trophy kill.” She told KDVR-TV, a Fox station in Denver, that she and her family used the entire mountain lion. That included eating the meat from it.
The TV station also reported that Esplin showed the reporter her hunting permit. A spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife told Fox31 that they are not investigating Esplin because it appears to have been a pefectly legal hunt.
The executive director of Prairie Protection Colorado, Deanna Meyer, was quoted on the group’s Facebook page. She argued that she had a problem with Esplin’s “gleeful” reaction to the kill. Meyer added that she is not a vegetarian but eats the meat from animals that have been hunted. “I do not find anything wrong at all with ethical hunting. To me, that doesn’t include selfies of the dead animal with laughing and elation.”
3. Mountain Lion Hunting is Legal in Colorado But Hunters Are Limited to One Lion Per Year
Hunting mountain lions is legal inthe state of Colorado. The season runs from November through the end of March.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife require hunters to apply for a mountain lion license each year. But once a hunter kills one mountain lion, that’s it for the rest of the license year. Parks and Wildlife states in its brochure, embedded above, that hunters are allowed to kill “one mountain lion, either sex, per license year (April 1–March 31).”
Colorado also requires people to undergo educational training before being allowed to apply for a hunting license. Hunters are told to carry their hunter education card with them. Active military and veterans are allowed to take a timed test in order to opt out of the official training.
4. Prairie Protection Colorado is Promoting a Petition to Ban Bobcat Hunting
The backlash to Franchesca Esplin’s pictures is happening as the Prairie Protection Colorado group works to end bobcat hunting in the state. A citizens petition is asking voters to support a ban on hunting and trapping bobcats. A Change.org petition has about 1,600 signatures.
Executive director Deanna Meyer told Yahoo News that the goal of sharing Esplin’s pictures had been to inspire people to think differently about hunting. “It’s not Franchesca that I’m after, although I think that her behavior and mentality is deplorable. But it’s not just her. It’s the whole mentality that goes behind trophy hunters. Our goal is to educate people and then hopefully go through the long process of changing legislation, and to try to protect what we have left of our predator species.”
Prairie Protection Colorado mentioned the proposed bobcat hunting ban in the post about Esplin’s kill. They wrote, “We have to do more than get angry and type about it on facebook. We need to all come together to start the process of changing laws. In California, citizens were able to ban all bobcat trapping throughout the state in 2013. Currently, in Colorado, a citizen has written a petition to ban bobcat trapping and hunting. This is a first step.”
5. Trophy Hunting Has Inspired a Lot of Negative Feedback on Social Media
Franchesca Esplin has said that she used the entire mountain lion and ate its meat, and argued that it was not a “trophy hunt.” Prairie Protection Colorado wrote on Facebook that it disagrees.
But the issue of trophy hunting has inspired sharp criticism on social media over the years. One example was Larysa Switlyk of Florida. She posted photos alongside animals she killed on a hunting trip in Scotland, which included a wild goat, Scottish stag, and domestic sheep. The animals were posed to look as if they were still alive. Citizens in Scotland have since taken steps to try to ban trophy hunting in the country.
In July of 2018, an American woman named Tess Thompson Talley was criticized after she posted a photo alongside a giaraffe she had killed in South Africa. The photo went viral. Actress Debra Messing was among those who slammed Talley; Messing called her a “selfish murderer” on Twitter.
In 2015, the case of American dentist Walter Palmer made international headlines. He shot and killed a lion named Cecil during a hunting trip to Zimbabwe. The lion lived in Hwange National Park but had traveled outside of the park when Palmer shot him with a bow and arrow. Since then, countries including the United States have imposed stricter regulations dictating whether hunters are allowed to bring the dead lion back home.