WASHINGTON - A blue-eyed American hunter with her own specialty TV show found herself Wednesday in the crosshairs of animal lovers outraged by her safari exploits in South Africa.
More than 375,000 people signed an online petition on Change.org calling on the South African government to no longer let Melissa Bachman, host of "Winchester Deadly Passion," into the country.
"Melissa Bachman has made a career out of hunting wildlife, for pure sport," read the petition launched by Cape Town resident Elan Burman.
"She is an absolute contradiction to the culture of conservation (that) this country prides itself on," it said.
In a statement, Change.org said it was the biggest animal-related petition it had ever hosted, gathering 150,000 new signatures since Monday.
A "Stop Melissa Bachman" page on Facebook meanwhile racked up more than 230,000 likes -- almost nine times the number of followers of Bachman's own Facebook account.
Triggering the outrage was a photo that Bachman posted on social media on November 1 of her kneeling and smiling, rifle in hand, behind a lion she had apparently just shot and killed.
"An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60-yards on this beautiful male lion...what a hunt!" she wrote on her @MelissaBachman Twitter account.
The Minnesota native, who shoots with both firearms and bows and grew up in a family that went hunting every weekend, wrote on her Facebook account that she had earlier bagged "a beautiful Nyala and a Duiker" -- two species of antelopes.
The Maroi Conservancy defended her on social media, saying it would not apologize for facilitating her lion shoot in South Africa's North West Province.
Sponsored by Winchester, a major American firearms manufacturer, Bachman's show is carried on the Pursuit Channel, a relatively small Alabama-based channel dedicated to outdoor activites such as hunting.
"The more people that can hunt, the more people that can enjoy the lifestyle, the better," she said in October in a report on Minnesota TV station KSTP about the state's growing number of licensed female hunters.
Last year the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency, released a survey indicating a rebound in the popularity of hunting in the United States after many years of decline.
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US TV hunter draws scorn over South Africa lion kill