OUT: Commission OKs small increase in lion licenses

DON ZIPPERT/Special to The Daily Sentinel
COLORADO HAS A HEALTHY POPULATION of mountain lions although exact numbers are unavailable. As part of its role in managing lion populations, the Division of Wildlife requires hunters to pass a lion hunter education course.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission on Thursday adopted a slight increase in mountain lion licenses, with most of the new licenses coming in hunting units along the Front Range.

According to Division of Wildlife statistics, hunters kill an average of 327 lions each year. Because the DOW hasn’t any concrete lion population numbers, conservationists have been concerned about the possible over-harvest of females.

After annual harvest statistics showed an increase in the number of of females in the harvest prior to 2005, since the middle of the 2005 lion season (mid-November) hunters statewide have been asked to voluntarily restrain from killing females.

Since 2004, hunters have killed male lions at nearly double the rate of females. According to the DOW, the percentage of females in the harvest has declined from 44-percent (2000-2004 average) to 40 percent in 2005, 33 percent in 2006 and 34 percent in the 2006-2007 season.

Hunting units in Middle Park saw an increase in female harvest last year and, in response, cut lion licenses there by one.

However, that is offset by an increase in seven licenses in game management units around Denver.

Mountain lion licenses are issued in unlimited quantity but hunters must call a toll-free number or a Division of Wildlife office to determine if a particular game management unit is open for lion hunting.

When a unit (or unit group) meets the harvest limit, then that unit or grouping of units is closed to lion hunting for the remainder of lion seasons that year.

The highest number of lions killed was 439 in 2001.

In 2007, the Wildlife Commission required hunters to have taken and passed a mountin lion hunter-education course before obtaining a lion hunting license.

The commission also discussed a number of draft items, including a proposed bag and possession limit on Mountain whitefish on the upper portion of the Yampa River.

Mountain whitefish are native to the Yampa and White rivers although are now are found in many western rivers. They favor clear, cold water and large deep pools. However, like the state’s other salmonid (trout) species, whitefish are susceptible to whirling disease and in recent years biologists have raised concerned about perceived declines in whitefish populations.

Currently there are no bag or possession limits for whitefish.


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