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.