Wildlife Commission raises mountain lion limit

Flocks of Merriam’s turkeys are creating late-winter problems for landowners in eastern Colorado. The state Parks and Wildlife commission has agreed to consider changes in the turkey hunting regulations to address the complaints.

The state Parks and Wildlife Commission on Thursday raised the limit of mountain lion harvest for the 2012 season to 618, an increase of 26 lions.

Mountain lion licenses are offered in unlimited numbers but prior to hunting, a hunter must call a toll-free number or Colorado Parks and Wildlife office to learn if a particular game management unit is open for lion hunting.

Harvested lions must be checked by a wildlife officer. License sales are closed in specific areas when harvest quotas for those areas are met.

The high harvest was 439 lions in 2001.

In 2007, in response to the concern over a growing percentage of female lions in the harvest, the commission required hunters to pass a mountain lion gender identification test.

The test, along with voluntary efforts to reduce female hunting mortality, reduced the proportion of females from about 44 percent to 36 percent of the overall harvest over the past five years.

Last year, 1,739 hunters harvested 374 lions, including 129 females, about 34 percent of the harvest.

The commission also directed the Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff to compile information in response to a citizens petition to approve using electronic calls in hunting mountain lions.

Complaints were heard from eastern Colorado landowners about conflicts with large flocks of wild turkeys.

In some places where turkeys are abundant, scarce food resources prompt large flocks to congregate on cattle ranches, farms and residential areas in late winter.

Large numbers of turkeys can consume or contaminate significant amounts of silage, hay or other feed a landowner has reserved for livestock and can cause conflicts in residential areas.

The commission agreed to consider changes in turkey hunting regulations when the subject comes up at the November meeting in Burlington.

Commissioners directed Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff to continue exploring the environmental protections that would be needed to develop natural gas or oil at St. Vrain State Park in Longmont.

Since the agency owns the mineral rights beneath 439 acres of the park, the agency has a great deal of leverage in controlling when, where and how activity would occur, said High Plains Region Manager Heather Dugan.

She told the commission that Parks and Wildlife staff had already decided that development would be limited to two well pads on the northern and southern margins of the park and that environmental protections would meet or exceed those required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Any development would require baseline water sampling and ongoing monitoring, she said.

The commission, composed of the merged state parks commission and the wildlife commission, received an update on the planned integration of Bonny Lake State Park into the adjacent South Republican State Wildlife area.

Plans call for Bonny Lake to be drained to provide water to Kansas under the Republican River compact.

Southeast Region Manager John Geerdes told Commissioners the transition is slated for Oct. 1. Starting next week, the state park campgrounds at Bonny will begin closing permanently.

Gerdes told the commission the park’s visitor center will be mothballed pending a decision on the future of the structure. Heavy equipment, shelters, picnic tables and similar amenities will be moved to other state parks.


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