Last week, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission made the unanimous decision to cancel the April mountain lion hunting season and further prohibit the use of electronic calls statewide. This move comes in the middle of the current mountain lion season, which runs from November to March. The changes are slated to take effect on March 1 and will affect the units that have an additional April season.
It should be noted that the current harvest falls well within the established quotas set by CPW and is not made in reaction to any quotas being met or exceeded.
More so, it should be noted that this is not a ban on hunting mountain lions, as has been discussed (and hotly contested). Essentially, the move cuts the season short in a select number of units.
Harvest numbers have been historically low later in the season, and the cancellation of the April season will likely not have much impact on overall harvest numbers.
However, the intention seems pretty clear, particularly with the upcoming 2024 ballot initiative to ban the hunting of big cats in Colorado altogether.
Colorado Mountain Lion Management
Much misinformation has been circulating about mountain lion hunting in Colorado, particularly when it comes to the hunting of female lions. Emotions seem to be taking center stage over the science.
During a recent commission meeting, Mark Vieira, the agency’s carnivore and furbearer program manager, tried to explain the management of mountain lions in Colorado with the facts. He explained that the male-to-female harvest breaks down to about 60/40.
However, he went on to show that among the 40% female harvest, only about 17% of that had been of breeding age. The other 22%, the majority, were sub-adult female lions, not old enough to breed.
Vieira went on to explain to the commission that the hunting of mountain lions and maintaining a healthy population exist hand-in-hand.
“These two conditions are not mutually exclusive,” said Vieira.
The changes and push for additional restrictions come in response to increased anti-hunting sentiment in the state. In contrast to what Colorado state biologists had to say on the matter, animal rights organizations have their own interpretations.
“Females are essential to population health and trophy hunting of females at this rate is unsustainable for the mountain lion population,” Josh Rosenau, director of policy and advocacy for the Mountain Lion Foundation, said in a press release.
Julie Marshall, the organization’s director of public relations, continued the sentiment.
“Cougar moms care for their cubs for up to two years, so it’s likely that many of the cougars killed already this winter left cubs behind, to fend for themselves or starve,” she said.
Conservation Orgs & Hunters
On the other side of the issue, the group Coloradans for Responsible Wildlife Management has ramped up a campaign to fight for science-based wildlife management in Colorado.
“The proponents of this initiative are wielding misinformation as their weapon. They’ve coined the term ‘Trophy Hunting’ to mislead the public and potential voters, veiling their true intentions behind a facade of concern over fair chase, cruelty, and mismanagement. We, the Coloradans for Responsible Wildlife Management, a 501(C-4) organization, have embarked on a painstaking journey of legal, educational, and logistical endeavors to quash this unfounded initiative,” states the organization’s website about Initiative 2023-2024 #91.
“Our mission is clear – to halt the advance of this anti-hunting agenda before it morphs into a nationwide ban on ALL HUNTING. The stakes are high, transcending beyond the borders of Colorado, beyond the fate of Mountain Lions and Bobcats.”
Several other organizations have stepped up to fight for science-backed management through hunting. HOWL is one leading the charge in engaging hunters with the policies and policymakers.
So, What’s Next?
It may all fall to the hands of Colorado voters this fall. Colorado Ballot Proposal #91 would leave the legality of hunting big cats up to public vote.
Want to Hear More?
For a deeper dive on the issue, check out the GearJunkie podcast’s recent interview between our Hunt & Fish Editor, Rachelle Schrute (yours truly), and Editor in Chief, Adam Ruggiero. In it, the pair discuss how Tiger King star Carole Baskin stepped into the mountain lion debate, and debunk the misinformation she brought to it.