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Colorado Cancels April Mountain Lion Hunting Season, Stirring Controversy

The state's decision comes after 198 mountain lions were killed in a month.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission announced last week it would eliminate the April mountain lion hunting season and outlaw the use of electronic calls statewide. The new regulations go into effect March 1. These changes come despite the fact that the current mountain lion harvest falls well within the agency's established harvest goals.

Wildlife biologists in Colorado believe the state's wild mountain lion population is stable and thriving, thanks in large part to regulated hunting.

"Our lion harvest has been around 500 for the last five years or so," CPW carnivore and furbearer program manager Mark Vieira told CPW commissioners Jan 11 during a public meeting. "In terms of seasonal harvest, Colorado has one of the most restrictive regulations. We tend to frontload our harvest, from late November into December and early January. There are lots of reasons for that, including the opening day push, when more folks are out, snowfall, and the closure of units after harvest limits have been reached."

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There are estimated to be between 3,800 and 4,400 mountain lions in Colorado at this time, which is significantly more than when the state began actively managing the species.

"All formal observations point to a growing, healthy, and increasingly stable population of lions in recent decades," Vieira said "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. It is not one or the other. These two conditions are not mutually exclusive."

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Traditionally, the primary mountain lion hunting season in Colorado spans from late November through March, with a second season in certain units management during the month of April.

Some hunters are concerned that the CPW's decision has more to do with appeasing anti-hunters than efficient wildlife management, but CPW spokesperson Bridget O'Rourke rebukes that claim. During the public meeting, 11 public comments were heard: five that opposed the regulated hunting of lions and six were in support of it.

Just days prior to the meeting, an anti-hunting advocacy group released a scathing press release claiming that Colorado hunters were killing mountain lions at unsustainable rates. This claim goes against what the state's records shows. While it is true that at the time of the press release, there indeed had been 198 mountain lions killed within a month, that number represents approximately five percent of the state's overall population, and an average harvest rate.

"The number of lions harvested up to this point in the 2023-2024 season isn't any different than recent averages," O'Rourke said. "CPW sold approximately 2,500 licensees per year on average for the last 3 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."

The statewide ban on electronic calls has minimal effects on most of the state, considering they were already outlawed in all but two special management units.

READ MORE: Hunters Stunned By the Sound of a Mountain Lion In Heat