A draft Colorado Parks and Wildlife mountain lion plan seeks to maintain relatively stable overall populations in western Colorado, but would create a special management area that includes Glenwood Springs to deal with some of the human-lion conflicts being experienced there.
CPW has posted its West Slope lion management plan online for public review, and is asking for feedback by April 12. More information may be found at https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/PopulationManagementPlans.aspx.
Due to research findings, the agency is proposing to manage lions on a more regional rather than local level, to reflect factors such as the mobility of lions.
The plan’s goal is to have relatively stable populations in both the northern and southern regions of the West Slope. That replaces current objectives for 13 more localized areas, in two of which lions are managed to suppress their numbers.
The plan proposes a 2021-22 hunting harvest goal of 243 lions for the northwest region, and 185 in the southwest region. For 2018-19 the harvest limit was 317 for northwest Colorado and 194 in southwest Colorado.
The northwest region figures don’t include the proposed Glenwood Springs special management area.
Hunter harvest across the entire northwest region averaged 228 lions a year in the 2016-18 time period, the draft plan says, or 212 excluding the Glenwood area.
The harvest in southwest Colorado has averaged 147 lions, but the draft plan says CPW expects that number to grow “due to the great flexibility afforded to hunters by the large geographic harvest limit groups,” as opposed to the smaller, more localized limits, many of which were never achieved.
“Allocating allowable harvest mortality across (each region) provides local managers flexibility in distribution of harvest limits, while Regional thresholds ensure the maintenance of population stability at the larger scale,” the plan says.
Regional harvest targets would be set in a way that aims to keep adult females to no more than 22% of total lions taken per year, although not in the case of the Glenwood management area. In setting those objectives, CPW also would take into account total human-caused mortality of lions from not just hunting but factors such as vehicle strikes and removal of lions that prey on livestock. But again, that metric wouldn’t apply in the Glenwood Springs area.
The plan defines that area as most of the Roaring Fork Valley and parts of the Eagle Valley south of Interstate 70.
“Mountain lions have historically existed in these areas; however field observations and reported incidents over the past decade have all indicated a significant increase in both the number and severity of human-lion conflicts. Managers have become concerned that the frequency of these conflicts is likely to result in human injuries or fatalities,” the plan says.
It says public reports of lions in the special management area were rare just 10-20 years ago, and now number in the hundreds each year. The reports include lions basking on front porches in neighborhoods and walking down sidewalks mid-day, with some seeming to have lost their fear of humans when confronted. In 2016 a younger lion mauled a young child near Aspen, the plan notes. The boy’s mother was able to stop the lion’s attack on him, according to media reports at the time.
The draft plan proposes establishing separate management objectives for the Glenwood area, with human safety and social tolerance levels being a higher priority than lion abundance.
It proposes measures there such as creation of a third mountain lion season concurrent with the four regular deer and elk rifle seasons. Hound hunting wouldn’t be allowed during this season, but CPW is proposing allowing the use of electronic calls in the Glenwood area. That would provide hunting opportunities for people without hounds, and on small pieces of land due to the ability to call in a lion.
The draft notes that occasional human-lion conflicts occur in southwest Colorado, in the Uncompahgre, Gunnison, Dolores, San Juan and Animas river valleys. It calls for allowing use of electronic calls in some areas in part due to patterns of small property ownership or mixtures of public and private land that can make use of hounds difficult.