Grand Junction — On Thursday, May 3rd, the Colorado Wildlife Commission will determine whether or not to go forward with a mandatory mountain lion hunter education program. If it does (and it appears very likely based on the last two hearings before the Commission), the program will be the first of its kind in the country—setting an enormous precedent. The Wildlife Commission will hear the matter at the Holiday Inn, 755 Horizon Drive, Grand Junction, Colorado at 9:55 am.
With the culmination of the mandatory hunter education program, a hotly contested issue in wildlife politics resolves: how to best manage mountain lion hunting in Colorado. This topic had been loudly debated between conservation groups and hunting outfitters since 2002. If the Wildlife Commission approves the education program next week, the matter will be amicably resolved. The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) and members of the Commission applauded the fact that the Colorado Outfitters Association and Sinapu came together over what had been a contentious issue.
“As a former Colorado Wildlife Commissioner who supported the mandatory lion education program from the outset, I commend Sinapu, the Colorado Outfitters Association, and the Division of Wildlife for their collaborative efforts. This program demonstrates how sportsmen and conservationists can find common ground to preserve Colorado’s precious natural resources,” said Bernard Black, Jr., who served on the Wildlife Commission from 1997 to 2005.
In August 2005, both Sinapu and the Colorado Outfitters Association petitioned the Wildlife Commission and requested that lion hunter education become mandatory for two reasons: to protect females with dependent kittens and to raise awareness about Colorado’s mountain lion regulations.
In November 2005, the Wildlife Commission ordered the DOW to advance a mandatory hunter education course. Colorado Outfitters’ Association, Sinapu, and others participated with the DOW in developing the hunter education program.
“Colorado, as it has been in the past with such issues such as whirling disease, chronic wasting disease and lynx reintroduction, shows that once again it is a leader in wildlife management in the United States. This program will assure that future generations will be able to enjoy seeing and knowing that Colorado’s largest feline carnivore exists in the wild,” Black added.
“When we began our mountain lion campaign in 2002, we were concerned that with the fact that nearly half of the total mountain lion hunter kill was comprised of females, which meant breeding females were taken out of the population, and their kittens were being orphaned,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring. “It’s essential for the long-term conservation of a slow-breeding species that the females are carefully protected.”
The Colorado Outfitters Association wanted mandatory hunter education largely to reduce hunting violations, such as illegal trespass onto private property, and the fact that many lion hunters were hiring guides and outfitters that were not licensed or bonded in Colorado.
“We applaud the DOW’s mandatory lion hunter education program — it sets the gold standard for other western states,” Keefover-Ring added.
Wendy Keefover-Ring, Sinapu: 303.447.8655, Ext. 1,#
Bernard Black, Jr., Former Colorado Wildlife Commissioner: 303.322.0895