Mountain Lion Sport Hunters Kill Unsustainable 47% Females, Season End Records Show

Government reports confirm 500 mountain lions killed over four months as ‘Recreational Opportunity’

Colorado — Cats Aren’t Trophies (CATs) received state data this week showing that from the end of November 2023 through March 2024, a total of 500 mountain lions were killed as a “recreational wildlife-opportunity” per Colorado state statute.

Remarkably, nearly half (47%) of those cats were female and not one was reportedly in conflict with humans. A total of 235 females were killed for fun; 265 males died as a result of lion sport hunters who keep their heads and hides as trophies.

This percentage bucks our state’s annual trend of at most 41% female lions killed in recent years, public data shows. When coupled with state reports showing more juvenile and subadult lions are being killed by sport hunters over the past five years in Colorado’s wild, these facts indicate that sport hunting is already having a detrimental effect on lion population health and stability in Colorado.

See Colorado Parks and Wildlife 2023-2024 data by clicking here.

“Trophy hunters killed more female mountain lions in Colorado during the most recent hunting season than ever before,” says Samantha Miller, campaign manager for Cats Aren’t Trophies. “The numbers don’t lie. Trophy hunters either cannot tell sex of a mountain lion, or they have a reckless disregard for the state’s hunting guidelines. Either way, the recreational killing of mountain lions by trophy hunters is unsporting and unnecessary and has no place in Colorado.”

Excessive Number of Females and Younger Cats Killed for Trophies Suggests Detrimental Effects are Already Occurring to Lion Populations in Colorado

A small minority of citizens in Colorado — 2,000 individuals (0.03% of our state population) — ever prove to buy a license to kill mountain lions as their idea of outdoor recreation. Lion hunters are allowed to use dog packs with tracking collars to do the actual hunting and contain cats in trees where they can then easily be shot.

Colorado’s sport hunting guidelines for lions allow for killing females, without rules to require checking for lactating females before shooting lions. Females have litters any time of year and will be pregnant or caring for dependent young during the vast majority (up to 83%) of their lifespan; moms will leave kittens behind and alone up to 12 days while they seek food to nurture their young, according to our state biologists. When left behind, kittens stand a 4% chance of survival and typically starve to death, reports Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Females are the linchpin of population growth and stability,” explains wildlife biologist Erik Molvar of the Western Watersheds Project.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends limiting total hunter kill of mountain lions not to exceed 22% females, and the agency openly recommends for recreational lion hunters to seek the large, mature males of the species in recreational pursuits.

Trophy hunters seek the large males to win awards from Boone & Crockett Club that lists mountain lion trophy entries (192 for Colorado) with score charts that determine trophies.

But the data trends from Colorado Parks and Wildlife shows the opposite is happening on the ground.

Over the past five years, reports show the average age of lions killed for sport has dropped significantly, while the number of females killed has risen remarkably.

See tooth data by clicking here.

“When you have more females and more juvenile and subadult mountain lions being killed, this suggests that Colorado’s population is already experiencing detrimental effects,” says Josh Rosenau, a mammalogist and Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Mountain Lion Foundation. “We know that hunting lowers the average age of the population. What Colorado is likely seeing today by the numbers reported is that mature adults are being depleted.”

Heavy Losses of Subadult and Juvenile Lions Count

“The loss of these younger females counts,” Rosenau says, “Because you are eliminating them before they have a chance to contribute to their genetic diversity as they get older and have litters across their lifespan. Not all cats are viable reproducers, and so these individuals count, especially as survival rates for each litter always remains at risk.”

“Without human hunting pressure, lions live longer, and science shows us that older, mature lions are less likely to engage in conflict with humans,” Rosenau adds.

The Cats Aren’t Trophies (CATs) measure is now collecting signatures for a November ballot measure to end the unsporting and cruel trophy hunting of mountain lions and commercial fur trapping of bobcats in Colorado.

CATs is a political committee in Colorado that has succesfully filed 2024 ballot language to ban trophy hunting of mountain lions and fur trapping of bobcats. The measure also protects lynx, who are sometimes mistaken for bobcats and killed.

 CATs believes that trophy hunting of mountain lions and bobcats is cruel and unsporting — a highly commercial, high-tech head-hunting exercise that doesn’t produce edible meat or sound wildlife management outcomes, but only orphaned cubs and social chaos among the surviving big cats.

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on the citizens' initiative to ban trophy-hunting of mountain lions and trapping of bobcats on the 2024 Colorado ballot