2024 Election, Elections, Featured, Sherrie Peif

Mountain lion hunting ban working its way towards Colorado’s 2024 ballot

As the legislative session nears an end for another year, with Colorado lawmakers scrambling to finish up bills, citizen-initiated measures hoping to make the ballot in 2024 are also piling up to enact new laws.

One such initiative includes language that appears in practice to outright ban the hunting of mountain lions in Colorado— despite laws on the books that already tightly regulate and protect the species.

If it makes the ballot and passes, Initiative #91 would bar what the measure refers to as the “trophy hunting” of mountain lions—along with bobcats or lynx–in Colorado. The measure has been approved for circulation and the group “Cats Aren’t Trophies” had already raised nearly $220,000 by the Jan. 16 campaign finance filing date. The next filing is due May 6.  The group also registered with the Secretary of Sate as a licensed petition entity on April 11, meaning they can pay people directly for signature gathering.  Proponents must gather more than 126,000 valid signatures from registered voters by August to make the ballot.

Trophy hunting is generally considered as the hunting of wild animals just for sport and not for food, but Initiative 91 broadly defines the practice as the “intentional killing, wounding, pursing or entrapping of a mountain lion, bobcat or lynx.”

Trophy hunting is banned in most places in the US unless there is a temporary need to balance out a population. In Colorado, the hunting of mountain lions (as well as bobcats and lynx), which runs yearly from November to March (with additional hunting in April if needed) is already prohibited unless the meat of the animal is harvested for consumption.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, (CPW) there are already stringent rules in place for hunting mountain lions, including:

  • Obtain a Customer Identification Number (CID) from the Division of Wildlife.
  • Requiring hunters to complete the “mountain lion education certificate” course and pass a subsequent exam with a score of 80 percent or higher.
  • A 16-page course guide outlines all the information needed for mountain lion hunting.
  • Purchase a mountain lion hunting license for $60.05 (resident) or $501.75 (nonresident).
  • During active lion hunting seasons, hunters who have a license MUST check the “available lion harvest limit report” for possible closed areas after 5 p.m. on the day prior to the hunting license.
  • After a kill, the successful hunter has 48 hours to contact CPW and report the kill. Information required includes where it was killed and the sex of the animal.
  • Within five days of harvesting the animal, hunters MUST personally bring the lion to a CPW office for inspection.
  • Lions brought to CPW without hides or heads will be confiscated by CPW.
  • CPW will keep a tooth from the animal to determine its age.
  • Hides cannot be frozen prior to inspection.

A full description of the course and laws can be found on the CPW website.

On average around 500 mountain lions are killed yearly by hunters. During the 2022-23 season that number was 502 (298 males and 204 females) from a pool of 2,599 hunters, making the success rate for a kill 19 percent. CPW estimates there are approximately 3,800-4,400 lions in Colorado. They have an average life span of about 12 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity. Females give birth to their kittens usually between April and July, when hunting is banned.

An opposition group to the ban, “Colorado’s Wildlife Deserve Better” was formed just days after the last required reporting period, so it is not known what if any money it has raised. The next report is due May 6 for the period Jan. 1 – May 1.

Complete Colorado contacted Dan Gates, from Coloradans for Responsible Wildlife Management, a pro-hunting group that opposes the measure, but had not heard back from him by publication. But earlier this year, Gates said that the ban was a farce, saying that the proposed trophy hunting definition actually means a ban on hunting the animals entirely.

“They say they want to curtail trophy hunting, but the definition in the petition says ‘intentional killing,’” Gates previously said. “All of hunting is intentional killing. If they are going to classify that hunting as intentional killing, how can they not be for getting rid of all forms of hunting?”

Complete Colorado will continue to follow this story including the next round of campaign finance reporting over the next couple of weeks.


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