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Mountain lions are increasingly interacting with people in Colorado

With lions increasingly interacting with people, state officials are developing a new plan to keep them apart — but that plan includes hunting lions.
Posted at 2:35 PM, Mar 12, 2024

Scenes collected by the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife capture an ongoing problem: Mountain lions are prowling in people's yards and in neighborhood parks, showing up on doorsteps and sprinting through backyards.

"So, Colorado has a very healthy mountain lion population. We estimate we have between 3,800 and 4,400 independent mountain lions, which doesn't count kittens," said Kara Van Hoose, public information officer at Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

That healthy population isn't necessarily healthy for humans. With the lions and people increasingly interacting, state officials are developing a new plan to keep them apart — a plan that would likely include continuing the hunting of mountain lions.

"We're talking about the people that won a trophy that want to go out and kill, you know, people who travel to Africa to shoot lions and elephants and rhinoceroses," said Pat Craig, founder of the Wild Animal Sanctuary. "And there's people here in the United States that come to Colorado, and even Colorado natives that go out and want to shoot mountain lions."

Craig is a part of a group proposing a ballot measure to ban trophy hunting of mountain lions, as well as the fur-trapping of bobcats, called Cats Aren't Trophies. The group needs about 125,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

"They use dogs — and these packs of dogs will chase a mountain lion, and these dogs have radio collars. And so really, the hunter doesn't do much of anything," said Craig. "So, for us, it's just, it's not even considered to be fair hunting or any kind of traditional hunting, like people that subsist on the meat that they would normally get."

Some hunting organizations have weighed in against the proposal, saying the proposition would be detrimental to professional wildlife management efforts in Colorado, and devastating to the heritage of Colorado hunters.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has rolled out a new mountain lion plan for Colorado's Eastern Slope. The department has no position on the ballot proposal, but it does allow licensed hunting of mountain lions for population control.

"So we study very closely how mountain lions are existing on the landscape, how the health of the population is doing and then use hunting quotas and hunters to help us achieve our population objectives," said Van Hoose. "So if you can control the female population and really manage the population where you want to be with the female mountain lions, then you can control how many kittens they produce a year. And yeah, because a male can mate with a lot of different females, but females can only have one litter a year."

Those wanting to ban trophy hunting claim that many hunters don't harvest and eat the meat from the mountain lions. However, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, hunters are required to prepare mountain lions for food, which means strictly just trophy hunting is already prohibited. During the 2022-2023 mountain lion hunting season, about 2,600 hunters killed 502 cats.

The potential ballot measure would still allow for the killing of wild cats in scenarios where they are deemed a threat to human life, livestock or property.

"And so we want to be able to put that out there for voters to vote on it because we're very confident that they're gonna say, no, hunting is OK, but not trophy hunting like this," said Craig.

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