What’s the value of a mountain lion, bobcat or lynx?
When hunting organizations talk about conservation, they often mean economics, meaning dollars paid and dollars used to fund our state wildlife agency.
Colorado operates on a user-pays model largely paid by fishing and hunting licenses and fees. But not all “game” bring in the big bucks.
Mountain lion hunting and bobcat trapping are not anywhere close to driving our outdoors or tourism economy, and offer a tiny drop in the bucket to our state’s wildlife operations budget:
- Each year, just 2,000 people ( 0.03% of all Coloradans) want to hunt mountain lions and just 700 (0.01%) want to trap bobcats. Another 500 people from out of state put up money to kill a mountain lion each year in our state. (See pie chart)
- Comparatively, 456,000 applications came in last year alone for deer and elk licenses in Colorado. (See bar chart)
- Among hunters: with 5% of all 5.8 million Coloradans being hunters, fewer than 1% (0.6%) of Colorado hunters ever choose to hunt lions or trap bobcats.
“What is the value of a bobcat? A few years ago, an analysis by Lisa Robertson of Wyoming Untrapped and Mark Elbroch of the cat conservation group, Panthera, was published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. Based on the amount of money spent by a large number of wildlife photographers who traveled to Yellowstone to see this bobcat along the Madison River, its short-term economic value was – brace yourself – more than $308,000 for the regional economy over just a winter season.”
Beyond Dollars: What’s a wild cat’s life worth?
The value of having three species of wild cats in Colorado should not solely be measured in the dollars they bring as fur for trappers, or a head, hide or a mount for a trophy hunter.
Mountain lions occupy a unique place in Colorado as an apex predator bringing vast benefits to Colorado’s deer and elk herds by keeping them healthy from the deadly neurological Chronic Wasting Disease; mountain lions are key to whole ecosystem health, and public safety because they reduce vehicle collisions with deer that are becoming much more common and deadly.
By allowing inhumane and unnecessary trophy hunting and trapping of wild cats in modern times when we face climate change and biodiversity losses, we should be working hard to invest in our wildlife, rather than offer such easy shooting opportunities for no public good. Especially when we truly do not know how many of these species exist in our state.
The value of having three wild cat species roaming our wild lands
It’s critical to note that Colorado is one of only three states to have stable, breeding populations of mountain lion, bobcat and lynx (the other two are Washington and Montana). Colorado is a leader in the conservation of America’s wild cats.
Vail Resorts started the lynx transplant program with a $200,000 contribution to the Colorado Division of Wildlife to pay for the capture and transportation of lynx from Alaska and British Columbia. They have also spent $700,000 on a study of the movement of elk from Copper Mountain to Beaver Creek.
The lynx reintroduction started in 1999 and got off to a rocky start. Forty three out of 96 died due to various causes, including hunting and trapping. In total 218 lynx were brought to Colorado from 1999 to 2006. Currently, there are between 150-250 lynx in Colorado.
Given that lynx have been well-documented to be injured and killed from being accidentally caught in bobcat traps, or shot as a mistaken bobcat, it behooves us to put a larger investment in the value of our wild cats and end the trapping and trophy hunting of them in our wild places for the good of Colorado.
Read in more detail about the many ecological services provided by mountain lions on our Ecological Services page.
Read in more detail about the dangers of trapping bobcats and catching lynx, instead on our End Trapping for Pelts page.