Animal associations

Attempt to ban mountain lion hunting thrills animal advocates and confuses hunters – The Journal

Over the past decade, hunters in Colorado have killed an average of 469 cougars per year

A bill that would ban the hunting of cougars has drawn opposition from hunting and wildlife communities. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, via The Colorado Sun)

When Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioners in January 2021 allowed hunters in certain areas to lure cougars with electronic calling devices, animal rights groups responded with a new plan: ask lawmakers to ban hunting feral cats in Colorado.

“That was it for us,” said Aubyn Royall, Colorado director of the Humane Society of the US who has spent the past few years asking state wildlife officials to ban hunting cougars. “We worked through the proper channels and had no success, so we decided we had to go through the legislation.”

Senate Bill 31, introduced last week by four Front Range lawmakers, all Democrats, would ban the hunting of cougars, Canada lynx and bobcats.

Senator Joann Ginal of Fort Collins removed her name from the measure on Thursday, saying the work of stakeholders had not been enough. That leaves Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Boulder County, Rep. Judy Amabile of Boulder, and Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge carrying the bill. He has no Republican sponsors.

The legislation has rallied hunters and anglers across the state. An online message from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers urging members to oppose the hunting ban has prompted more than 20,000 emails to Colorado lawmakers.

“It’s a very strong response in just a few days,” said Brien Webster, Colorado and Wyoming chapter coordinator for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, who authored the blog post. “I think our members see this as an overreach of the state legislature. They want to ensure that wildlife management remains in the hands of our national wildlife agency and wildlife managers who are guided by science, not sentiment.

Colorado cougar hunters are required to complete a special education course and check for updated lion harvest limit reports the day before the hunt in case an area reaches its limits and the CPW closes it. for hunting. Over the past decade, hunters in Colorado have killed an average of 469 mountain lions per year.

The state’s governor-appointed wildlife commission has voted unanimously in recent years to reject calls to ban mountain lion hunting. Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s mountain lion management plan, approved in September 2020, aims to maintain a “relatively stable” mountain lion population on the West Slope.

Between 2009 and 2014, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists captured, tagged, radio-collared and tested more than 220 cougars as part of a study analyzing the effects of sport hunting on populations of cougars. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, via The Colorado Sun)

The plan allows wildlife managers to adjust hunting limits to maintain certain thresholds. For example, hunters cannot kill more than 22% of adult female lions in an area. The three-year average of all human-caused mountain lion deaths cannot exceed 17% of the population for most areas. Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates the state has between 3,000 and 7,000 cougars.

The Humane Society of the United States, which met with CPW wildlife managers during the creation of the management plan to express general opposition to cougar hunting, in an April 2020 letter supported the management plan CPW and mortality limits. But the group, joined by five other advocacy organisations, urged the CPW not to extend the season for cougars and to ban the use of electronic calls. (Electronic calls may include distant speakers that play sounds that attract predators, usually recordings of other cougars or animals in distress.)

“Cougar hunters want a trophy. They want bragging rights and they want a picture posing with a massive mountain lion,” Royall said. “They don’t hunt for food and when they remove a dominant male or a mother with kittens from the landscape, you get orphaned sub-adults who don’t know how to take care of themselves. It creates a lot of the problems that you see with interactions with humans and it disrupts the social structure.

The last time animal advocates pushed wildlife management policy away from Colorado’s parks and wildlife, voters in November 2020 narrowly approved the reintroduction of wolves to the West Slope.

Dan Gates, president of Coloradans for Responsible Wildlife Management, said statewide conversations following CPW’s work to reintroduce wolves to western Colorado by the end of next year “opened our eyes to wildlife management and species conservation, sustainability and habitat”.

“I think it helps raise awareness and educate groups about the complex science behind wildlife management,” Gates said.

Proposed ban ‘generated a lot of emails’ to lawmakers

Gates said voters and legislatures are not following the North American model of wildlife conservation that has guided state wildlife managers across the country for more than 70 years. Colorado wildlife biologists have decades of research and population counts that help them create boundaries for hunters. These changing hunter harvest caps help state biologists manage wildlife as a public resource.

“CPW experts need to be able to adapt these management goals accordingly and citizen agendas initiated from non-use and non-activity perspectives do not align with these decision-making processes,” said said Gates. “Their general intention is to stop harvesting any animal that is on their plate for the day, as it does not align with their morals, values ​​and ethics. It is very good. We may have differences of opinion, but those opinions are not always based on fact. Misinformed people often make misinformed decisions.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists have developed a noninvasive genetic sampling technique to collect data on cougar and bobcat populations. The techniques do not harm the animal and a long-term study is underway in Boulder, Jefferson, Gilpin and Larimer counties to help wildlife managers better understand population sizes as well as age and diet of cougars and bobcats. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, via The Colorado Sun)

During a recent virtual town hall with four Democrats from the West Slope — Dylan Roberts of Avon, Kerry Donovan of Vail, Barbara McLaughlan of Durango and Julie McCluskie of Dillon — lawmakers seemed somewhat surprised by the hunting ban bill. to cougars.

Roberts said the bill had “generated a lot of emails for all of us.”

Donovan, who heads the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that will hear the proposed ban on cougar hunting, said the first time she and the others saw the bill was when of its introduction.

“I would say I still have to work to figure out the intent of the bill, talk to the …sponsors and try to figure out what they’re trying to accomplish,” Donovan said. “But I certainly believe in the doctrine of public trust.”

The doctrine anchors the nation’s wildlife conservation efforts, affirming that the government plays a vital role in protecting and managing wildlife, fish and waterways for the benefit of resources and the public.

Donovan said there “seems to be a conflict between the public trust doctrine and how the bill would change the management of cash.”

Donovan said she wanted to “make sure we put science at the forefront of our big game management.” She said she’s heard “people all over the state” worrying about the proposed hunting ban and its change in wildlife management.

“We hear you loud and clear,” she said. “We will continue to work on it.”

Royall said the Humane Society commissioned a survey of 1,800 Colorado voters in the summer of 2020 that showed 69% opposed recreational hunting of mountain lions. The survey defined recreational hunting as “primarily for human sport, not for food, where the trophy is the animal or part of the animal, which is often displayed to represent hunting success”.

Colorado has strict rules for hunting cougars, including a regulation that requires hunters to field dress a killed cougar and prepare the animal’s edible meat for human consumption.

Lion hunting is banned in California

State laws governing cougar hunting vary. California lawmakers banned cougar hunting in 1990 and in 2020 banned rodenticides linked to the killing of predators.

A female P-35 mountain lion is captured on a remote camera in California’s Santa Susana Mountains, where mountain lion hunting is prohibited. (National Park Service, via the Colorado Sun)

Utah wildlife managers recently increased and in some cases eliminated quotas, allowing hunters to kill unlimited numbers of cougars year-round in areas with deer and elk populations – which are the prey of cougars – are in decline. Washington wildlife managers prohibit hunting cougars with dogs, but allow exemptions for local, state or federal officials who protect livestock. This allowed a local sheriff to deputize for a group of hunters to track and kill cougars in 2019.

Webster said backcountry hunters and anglers will continue to lobby state lawmakers to oppose the hunting ban.

Part of that campaign, Webster said, is to share with lawmakers that the bill wouldn’t mean cougar and bobcat populations shouldn’t be managed.

“It just means hunters won’t,” he said. “That means there will be contract kill hunts to manage the populations. So it’s really important that it stays with the CPW and not with the legislature.

Colorado Sun staff writer Jesse Paul contributed to this report.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. Learn more at coloradosun.com.