The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission eliminated the state’s planned April mountain lion hunting season. Historically, Colorado had two seasons. One runs from late November until the end of March, and another from April 1 to April 30. That second season is no more.
The ruling comes during a time when proponents looking to end all hunting of mountain lions, bobcats and lynx are pushing a potential 2024 ballot initiative. Petition 91 was originally titled “Prohibit Trophy Hunting,” but the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners successfully appealed to the Colorado Title Board to force proponents to alter that title. The board agreed, calling it deceptive in nature. Proponents since launched a second ballot proposal that is working through the legal review process now.
One day prior to the commission’s January meeting, proponents claimed hunters are taking too many female lions, thus endangering the future health of the overall population. CPW data refutes that allegation.
“The number of lions harvested up to this point in the 2023-2024 season isn’t any different than recent averages,” Bridget O’Rourke, CPW spokesperson, told Outdoor Life. “CPW sold approximately 2,500 licenses per year on average for the last three years. In the 2022-2023 lion hunting season, there were 2,599 mountain lion licenses sold and 502 lions were harvested during the whole season, resulting in a 19 percent success rate.”
During a presentation to the commission, Mark Vieira, CPW’s carnivore and furbearer program manager, touted a healthy population thanks to years of successful management by his agency marked by highly regulated rules and quotas.
“All formal observations point to a growing, healthy, and increasingly stable population of lions in recent decades … And by using scientifically supported management thresholds, CPW can provide for lion harvest as a management tool while also having very robust populations of lions on the landscape,” said Vieira, according to Outdoor Life.
The commission also made it illegal for anyone statewide to use electronic calls. It is unlikely that this restriction will have much impact on harvest, nor will losing the limited April season, which makes the commission’s action in mid-season puzzling as it is not in response to any biological condition.
RMEF maintains that mountain lion populations should be sustainably managed just as elk, black bears, deer, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife are managed in line with the North American Wildlife Conservation Model.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)