Colorado cats may face a different future with new hunting opportunities proposed for the Western Slope.

State wildlife officials are seeing an increasing number of human-mountain lion conflicts, including areas of Eagle County and the Roaring Fork Valley. In an effort to manage healthy mountain lion populations, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) are proposing a new “West Slope Mountain Lion Management Plan” that would allow for the expansion of hunting seasons and zones, an increase in the number of lions harvested, and the use of electronic baiting in designated areas.

 

The Aspen Times says the new plan would allow for more mountain lions to be killed in the Glenwood Special Management Area, which covers most of the Roaring Fork River valley and portions of the Eagle River valley south of Interstate 70.

Ultimately, the goal of the new plan is to better manage stable mountain lion populations defined as “one that is not growing or declining over time,” with hopes of fewer conflicts to humans and livestock.

A report from the Denver Post says animal rights groups and even some hunters are against the new plan voicing multiple concerns including the fear of wiping out existing mountain lion populations estimated at 4,000 to 5,500. The plan would allow hunters to kill up to 15% of the population per year in western Colorado.

In Colorado, hunters are allowed to track down mountain lions using hounds. The new proposed management plan up for approval this summer would allow for the use of electronic calls in designated areas. Electronic calls, which are currently illegal, mimic the sounds of a distressed deer to attract lions.

If approved by the wildlife commission, the implementation of the new plan is expected to occur in 2021. This means changes for the mountain lion hunting season beginning in April 2021 and concluding in March 2022.

Mountain lion attacks on humans, while incredibly rare, have occurred in the state. In one incident, a rabid mountain lion was fatally shot after attacking two people including a deputy responding to the scene. In another incident, an 8-year-old boy was attacked by a cougar right outside his home in Bailey.

All harvested mountain lions must be inspected within 5 days. It is illegal to kill a kitten (lion with spots) or lion accompanied by one or more kittens. A hunter education course must be passed before obtaining a hunting license, which includes the distinction of gender (male vs female lions).

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