Since regular hunting is failing to adequately control the state’s mountain lion population, New Mexico is considering an open season on mountain lions.
Rep. Zack Cook (R-Ruidoso) recently introduced a new bill that would make mountain lions in New Mexico a completely unprotected species. If passed, this new law would change mountain lions into a “non-game” species, allowing them to be shot on sight. This would also end all existing seasons and bag limits and allow the hunting of Mountain Lions by those who do not possess a hunting license.
It is estimated that 3,000 to 4,500 mountain lions live in New Mexico and some people in the state are concerned that the large population is putting too much pressure on livestock and other game species, such as deer.
Even though hunting of mountain lions is allowed under current law in New Mexico, the proponents of this bill believe that is failing to properly control their numbers. For instance, only 200 mountain lions are taken during the established season each year.
Opponents of the proposed law are state that the proposed open season on mountain lions would remove legal authority from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) to manage mountain lion complaints and track the population through harvest reports.
The director of the NMDGF, Alexa Sandoval, had this to say about the proposed new law:
We wish the sport harvest was a little more successful, once they become an unprotected species, we have no legal authority over that animal.
The bill still has a long way to go: it has passed through one committee, but still has two more to go and then must be approved by the state legislature and the governor before it becomes law.
Personally, I feel like this bill is a bad idea. If they want the mountain lion population reduced, making hunting licenses and mountain lion tags cheaper, extending the season, and increasing the bag limit are all ways to take more mountain lions each year, while still giving the NMDGF legal authority over the animal.
Additionally, removing all protections for the animal is just asking for a lawsuit from an anti-hunting organization. If that happens, it’s not a stretch to think that a sympathetic judge somewhere could rule in favor of the anti-hunters and shut down ALL mountain lion hunting in New Mexico, which is very similar to what happened with wolf hunting in Wyoming in 2014.
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