Hunter sparks outrage after gleefully posing with dead mountain lion she butchered for sport
A hunter has sparked outrage after posting gleeful pictures of herself posing with a dead mountain lion on social media.
Franchesca Esplin picked up the deceased wild animal's carcass and flaunted its blood on her manicured fingers in images posted to Facebook, boasting the experience had put her on "cloud nine" and had been "at the top of my bucket list forever".
In addition, she posted a video of herself shooting the mountain lion, which was seeking safety at the top of a tree after numerous hounds chased it.
The married mother's post was later slammed by conservation group Prairie Protection Colorado (PPC), which called for an end to the "insanity of killing for pleasure".
Esplin took to social media to tell her followers "you guys have NO idea how happy I am," stating: "Anyone that knows me, has known that this hunt has been at the top of my bucket list FOREVER. I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity to harvest this amazing tom, 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 houndsmen that train their dogs to go chase these lions. I'm still on cloud 9. My sweet Bobby had to climb the tree to get the cat out because he got hung up on the branch he was laying on (oooops..) we figured since he was a fireman and is an expert in retrieving cats that he'd be the man for the job. My sweet Keylee is in a walking boot and walked the 700 yards (up and down and through the snow) to come see the lion and watch the entire thing."
She concluded that the hunt was "addicting", writing: "My boys also got to tag along. Thank you to all those that helped out, you guys have NO idea how happy I am. Great memories and great friends. Bobby says I'm spoiled since this was by far the easiest cat race in the history with us going an entire 700 yards or so. Us girls get all the luck. I can see why this hunt is addicting."
However, the gory images and accompanying video, which were allegedly taken during a December 2018 hunting trip, soon attracted criticism, with the PPC naming her and other hunters "sadistic killers".
"This is the mentality of people who kill predator species for sport and fun," they wrote. "Make no mistake that Colorado's wildlife policies and officials support this insane looting of Colorado's wildlife. It is OUR RESPONSIBILITY as people who care about wildlife to END the insanity of killing for pleasure."
They added: "**WARNING: Video footage in the first comment under this post shows sadistic killers shooting this mountain lion as he is seeking safety in the top of the tree after numerous hounds chased him there. This video and these pictures were taken off an individual's public facebook page while this lion killer was showing off how this was the best experience of her life."
After her post went viral, the mother, who reportedly works as a taxidermist, defended herself, saying the hunt was "completely legal" and that she had "used the entire lion".
She added that "hunting is part of her heritage," and revealed that threats had been made against her and her family since the PPC shared the post.
Local wildlife officials have supported her, saying they won't investigate as they believe the hunt was lawful.
The PPC claimed in a second post that they were "not specifically targeting Franny, but we were targeting the mentality of trophy hunters". In addition, they asked their followers to sign their name to a citizens’ petition to ban bobcat hunting in Colorado.