2004 Lion Quota Held at 2003 Level

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The Colorado Wildlife Commission set the 2004 mountain lion hunting quota at 790, keeping it the same as the 2003 quota currently in place.

During a meeting in Grand Junction this week, the Commission also adopted a new regulation intended to ensure lion hunters abide by fair chase ethics. The new regulation will require those who actually kill lions to participate in tracking the animal.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) had recommended reducing the quota to 651 based on information from wildlife managers around the state. The lower quota was not expected to reduce lion harvest dramatically because quotas are seldom reached in the vast majority of the state’s 21 lion data analysis units.

However, after listening to more than three dozen people—most of them lion hunters who said they believe the lion population has increased in the past several decades—the Commission decided to keep the same quota that was put in place this year.

“I have seen no evidence that the puma population in Colorado is declining or is in danger of extirpation,” said Commissioner Bernard Black. “I have heard information today from lion hunters and agricultural producers who say they are seeing more lions.”

Black then made a motion supported by a Commission majority to keep the quota at the 2003 level for another year, with a review of new information next November when the annual lion quota will be set for the 2005 season.

The actual number of lions taken by hunters historically is about half the quota. Over the past three years, the annual average lion harvest was 377 and the quota has been just under 800 in each year.

DOW biologist Jerry Apker told the Commission that the DOW’s lion management is designed to protect the statewide lion population over the long term while allowing for managed hunting and when necessary to reduce damage to livestock—especially sheep—and public concerns about conflicts with humans. He also said the DOW’s lion management is “adaptive and evolving,” allowing new information to be factored in every year when the lion hunting quota is set.

Apker explained that Colorado has a stable, healthy mountain lion population statewide based on all available information. The quota reflects the maximum number of lions that could be taken in a particular unit without causing any long-term damage in the lion population.

The DOW also is beginning the most intensive mountain lion study in state history, Apker said. The multi-year study, which is still being designed, would allow the development of population models for lions, focusing on population characteristics and dynamics, abundance and the lions’ prey base, primarily big-game animals. The DOW carefully manages lion hunting, requiring hunters to call a toll-free telephone number before hunting to assure that the quotas in the state’s 21 lion management units have not been reached. Hunters also must submit lions they kill to the DOW for inspection to assure accurate harvest numbers and to allow biologists to determine the sex, age and overall health of each lion.

Colorado now has an estimated 4,500 to 5,500 mountain lions.

The new lion hunting regulation approved by the Commission requires hunters who kill lions to be part of hunting parties that actually pursue lions. The regulation is designed to prevent the practice of allowing a lion, which has already been located, to be killed by someone who did not participate in the pursuit of the lion. Hunting mountain lions typically involves a long and difficult chase testing both skill and stamina.

In other action, the DOW approved a cost-of-living adjustment for nonresident deer, bull elk, pronghorn antelope, moose, mountain goat and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep licenses for the 2004 season. The price of nonresident deer and pronghorn licenses will increase from $290 to $295 and nonresident bull elk licenses will increase from $480 to $490. The price of nonresident lion, black bear and cow elk licenses will remain at $250.

In 2004, nonresidents will pay $1,640 for one of the limited number of bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat licenses available to them through the DOW’s limited license system. Resident big-game hunting license fees will not change for 2004.

The cost-of-living adjustment is based on the federal calculation of the Denver-Boulder consumer price index that is updated each year. The adjustment allows nonresident big game license fees to track inflation. The DOW receives no state tax money, and hunting and fishing licenses are the primary revenue source for wildlife management in Colorado.

The Commission also approved final wild turkey hunting regulations for the 2004 season, including a provision that will allow spring wild turkey hunters to take two bearded (male) turkeys. One of the wild bearded turkeys must be killed in a limited hunting area and the additional bearded turkey must be taken in an area where general season licenses are valid. Hunters who kill two turkeys in the spring will not be allowed to hunt in the fall season.

Hunters who take one wild turkey in the spring will be allowed to take one during the fall season. Hunters must obtain a separate license for each turkey they hunt.

The spring season will begin on April 10, 2004 in most units, with closing dates ranging between April 25 and May 23, depending on the management unit.

The fall season runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 3, 2004.