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.