Colorado Parks and Wildlife is considering a new series of drafted rules that could change how the Western Slope hunts and interacts with mountain lions.
Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said mountain lion sightings and visits to urban areas have increased, causing a public safety concern. The plan would focus on suppressing the lion population in a few problematic areas while managing a stable population in most areas.
The plan was developed in 2004, though Thorpe said since then, “a lot has changed,” and CPW used the most recent science to develop an updated management plan. The current model would allow 200 lions to be killed on the Western Slope, although they don’t typically reach their goals.
The plan would combine the Western Slope’s 13 mountain lion management units into a southwest and a northwest region to more accurately track and manage the population.
Thorpe said new research showed smaller management units made it harder to track population numbers because lions’ home ranges overlapped the units.
The new plan also would attempt to manage the population of adult female mountain lions, which, new research showed, has a large impact on the overall health of the population, Thorpe said.
The changes would set a threshold of 22% mortality for adult females – the percentage of lions killed in a given year. Thorpe said research has shown a 20% to 25% female kill rate would suppress the population, yet leave a stable population. CPW requires all hunters to present lion carcasses to the agency for examination.
CPW would not release exact harvest numbers because the plan is under consideration.
The rules also would continue to ban the use of electronic mountain lion calls, except in a proposed special management area near Glenwood Springs, Marble and Vail – which was identified as a hot spot for mountain lion activity.
The population of mountain lions in Colorado ranges from 3,000 to 7,000. Mountain lions are no strangers to La Plata County. A lion wandered into the backyard of a home in Hermosa in 2019, and Durangoans living in the Junction Creek area have reported sightings.
While the CPW held a community meeting at the La Plata County Fairgrounds last week – with over 50 community members in attendance – to outline the changes, the drafted plan will not be released until March. The proposal will be presented to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, with the plan possibly going into effect in April 2021. CPW is still soliciting community feedback.