In December 2018, Franchesca Esplin posed for a picture with the mountain lion she had killed. With her hands red with the animal’s blood, the 28-year-old mother and taxidermist from Colorado was smiling while she held up her kill.
Esplin told reporters that killing a Mountain Lion was at the “top of my bucket list forever.”
“Thank you to all those that helped out, you guys have NO idea how happy I am,” she wrote on a now-deleted Facebook post. “I can see why this hunt is addicting.”
Now, led by a ground called Prairie Protection Colorado, animal activists are trying to make it illegal for anyone else to do the same.
“This is the mentality of people who kill predator species for sport and fun,” the group posted to Facebook. “Make no mistake that Colorado’s wildlife policies and officials support this insane looting of Colorado’s wildlife.”
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Esplin was not breaking any laws when she killed the animal. She had applied for, and received, a lion license, which she brought with her on the hunt. She also claims that she used every part of the animal; that it wasn’t just a trophy.
Not everyone agrees.
“Franny clearly articulated as commentary to her grotesque pictures glee and happiness in killing another sentient being,” Prairie Protection Colorado posted to Facebook, noting Esplin’s connection to a business that profits off hunting trophies. “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,” the post continued. “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.”
As Prairie Protection Colorado’s executive director Deanna Meyer told Yahoo! News, “trophy kills are characterized by the ‘complete glee and elation [expressed by hunters] at the kills that they’ve performed,’ and go against the ethical means of hunting, which should be for survival and food.”
“I do not find anything wrong at all with ethical hunting,” Meyer said. “To me, that doesn’t include selfies of the dead animal with laughing and elation.”
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.