Monthly Archives: November 2004

State to cut number of hunting licenses for mountain lions

By DAVE BUCHANAN
The Daily Sentinel

COLORADO SPRINGS — The state will issue fewer hunting licenses for mountain lions next year, although no special protection will be afforded female lions, the Colorado Wildlife Commission decided Wednesday.

By a unanimous vote, the nine-member commission approved cutting the annual lion quota, the maximum number of lions allowed to be killed by hunters, from 790 to 567.

That’s still well above the number of lions killed by sport hunters. Last year, hunters killed 370 lions.

The reduction was to bring the quota more in line with the actual harvest, Division of Wildlife biologists said.

“This is a significant reduction from the past, but in terms of real impacts we won’t know” until next spring when harvest results are tallied, said Jerry Apker of the Division of Wildlife.

Sinapu, a predator conservation group in Boulder, had been pushing for a sub-quota on female lions, a lower limit that, once reached, would stop hunters from killing additional females.

The concern, said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, was the chance that dependent kittens would die from starvation or predation if abandoned after their mother was killed.

“The death of a female lion could result in the deaths of three or four kittens,” Keefover-Ring said. “For the conservation of this species, it’s absolutely necessary” to adopt a sub-quota.

But representatives from the Four Corners Houndsmen Association, which promotes and conducts lion hunts, said its members are actively attempting to harvest fewer female lions and are educating themselves on identifying treed lions and letting females go.

Mountain lion researcher Ken Logan will begin this December a 10-year study of mountain lions on the Uncompahgre Plateau, and several members of the audience urged the commission to wait for Logan to gather some lion information.

“We have Dr. Logan out there working hard to establish some baseline information and until then we have to reason to change the parameters” of lion hunting, said Bonnie Kline, executive director of the Colorado Wool Growers Association.

Even without the requested sub-quotas, Keefover-Ring said the new overall quota was a “tremendous step forward” in mountain lion management.

DOW Eases Restrictions On Wolves

By Judith Kohler, Associated Press Writer

The Colorado Wildlife Commission is clamping down on the number of mountain lions that can be hunted, but making it easier to shoot wolves caught attacking livestock in northern Colorado.

The commission on Wednesday approved cutting the maximum number of mountain lions that can be killed to 567 from 790. The new quota takes effect Jan. 1.

Wildlife advocates have campaigned for a lower cap, saying wildlife officials don’t know how many mountain lions there are in the state. Advocates are concerned too many of the animals will be killed.

“It’s a significant reduction,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, a Boulder-based advocacy group.

Division of Wildlife spokesman Todd Malmsbury said the change regarding mountain lions, recommended by state biologists, reflects the fact that hunters typically kill only about half the number allowed.

The commission also approved new state regulations on shooting wolves to conform with federal law. Ranchers north of Interstate 70, where wolves are classified as a threatened species, can shoot a wolf found attacking livestock. They must then notify authorities, who will investigate the shooting.

The state previously required ranchers to obtain a permit before shooting a wolf. South of I-70, wolves are classified as endangered, granting them the highest level of protection.

Wolves were eliminated from Colorado by the 1930s due to hunting, poisoning and trapping. A dead wolf traced to Yellowstone National Park was found in June along I-70 about 30 miles west of Denver, and wildlife officials expect more to migrate to the state.

Meanwhile, the Wildlife Commission earlier this year launched a 10-year study to determine the number of mountain lions in Colorado, the animal’s habitat requirements and the number of prey. Estimates on the mountain lion population vary, with numbers ranging from 3,000 to 7,000.

No recreational mountain lion hunting will be allowed during the study’s first five years on part of the Uncompahgre Plateau, where the study is taking place.

Wildlife commissioners rejected Sinapu’s request for a cap on the number of female mountain lions that could be killed. Keefover-Ring said if too many females are killed, kittens are orphaned and left to die.

Malmsbury, though, said the hunting season, which runs from late November to the end of March, was timed to try to ensure that mothers with kittens aren’t killed. He said hunter-education efforts are also under way.

The Division of Wildlife has fielded more complaints about mountain lions threatening or killing pets and livestock as more people have moved into mountain lion habitat. Malmsbury said people can reduce conflicts by controlling their pets and containing their garbage.

“The Division is not going to eliminate a wildlife resource to make the world safe for loose dogs and cats,” Malmsbury said.

Wolf-recovery panel takes hands-off stance for now

The Denver Post

By Theo Stein
Denver Post Staff Writer

Pioneering wolves migrating into Colorado should be allowed to live unmolested – unless they start killing livestock, a state panel said last week.

If adopted next year, that recommendation would make Colorado the first state in the interior West to voluntarily accept the return of the region’s top predator.

And it would come as a result of a historic compromise by the state’s still-powerful ranching community, whose forebears exterminated wolves in Colorado by the mid-20th century.

“We think the best approach is to live and let live,” said Craig rancher and wolf group member Jean Stetson.

While the Colorado Wolf Working Group isn’t due to present final recommendations to the state Division of Wildlife until December, the panel appears to have crossed a critical ideological divide that confronts wolves wherever they go.

When the panel first convened, several ranchers and sportsmen suggested wolves would take too great a toll on livestock and big game to allow their return.

“There’s nobody who’s still saying we will have to get rid of every wolf we can as soon as we can,” said Gary Skiba, the Division of Wildlife biologist working on the wolf plan. “That was a very difficult step.”

“We’ve made some progress, though it’s been pretty painful,” acknowledged Bonnie Kline of the Colorado Wool Growers Association.

The job of the wolf working group – composed of hunters, ranchers, professional biologists and environmentalists – gained added impetus in June when a radio-collared female from Yellowstone was struck by a vehicle and killed on Interstate 70 west of Denver. Since then, there have been no other confirmations of wolves in the state, Skiba said.

But biologists expect that young wolves dispersing from Yellowstone will continue to move south toward Colorado every year.

Meanwhile, the panel has deferred talk on the thorniest wolf-recovery issues in an effort to achieve a consensus report for the state wildlife agency by December. The plan under discussion deals only with the first wolves to recolonize the state. If and when packs of wolves re-establish themselves, however, many ranchers will want to evaluate tighter controls, Stetson said.

Stetson, Kline and other panel members have already asked Division of Wildlife officials to let them reconvene, perhaps as early as next year, to tackle other questions, including whether the state should jump-start recovery by reintroducing wolves; who, over the long term, will pay ranchers for their losses; and how many wolves are too many.

Staff writer Theo Stein can be reached at 303-820-1657 or tstein@denverpost.com .