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The choice to trophy hunt and trap Colorado wild cats is based on values alone and how we view their value dead or alive, and whether we choose to respect mountain lions for who they really are as well as the key roles they play will determine their future in Colorado.

Here are resources to understand the science what this issue is all about.

Mountain Lion Behavior:

Research shows that mountain lions are generally calm and highly prefer not to be around humans, they do not see us as food or competition. (“Mountain Lions are so scared of humans that the sound of talk radio sends them running, May 2023, article cites research in Royal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.)

 Research shows mountain lions are not aggressive cats by nature, meaning they are not ‘out to get us.’ (“Puma responses to close approaches by researchers,” Wildlife Society Bulletin)

 How did cats evolve into pets over thousands of years? | Fortune Well by Jonathan Losos is William H. Danforth Distinguished University Professor, Arts & Sciences at Washington University, St. Louis

Cats, it turns out, harbor genomes that look and behave remarkably like ours. “Other than primates, the cat-human comparison is one of the closest you can get,” with respect to genome organization, Leslie Lyons, an expert in cat genetics at the University of Missouri… “ From the article, “Feline genomes are surprisingly similar to humans, The Atlantic, 2021

Wild Cat Ecological Services:

 This Cat Holds Ecosystems Together | Psychology Today (Psychology Today, 2022)

 Puma concolor as ecological brokers: a review of their biotic relationships, Elbroch et al (Mammal Review, January 2022)

 Pumas engineer their environment providing habitat for other species, John Cannon (Mongabay)

Pumas as ecosystem engineers: ungulate carcasses support beetle assemblages in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. (Elbroch et al Oecologia)

 Mountain Lions as Ecosystem Engineers, (Animal Tracking, Dr. Mark Elbroch)

 Want to save the planet? Focus on wild cats. (Dr. John Goodrich) Washington Post, December 2022.

The ecology of human-caused mortality for a protected large carnivore (PNAS March 2023)

 Mountain Lions Are Keystone Providers for Birds! (Hillary Shughart, Public Radio, May 2023)

 The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health, High Country News

 Scientists are exploring the origins of chronic wasting disease before it becomes truly catastrophic, High Country News

 Faced with chronic wasting disease, what’s a hunting family to do? Hunters are critical of game management, but the spread of CWD means some may put down the rifle, High Country News

 Chronic wasting disease (CWD) kills every deer, elk and moose it infects by slowly boring holes in their brains

A citizen’s petition to Colorado Parks and Wildlife to prohibit recreational and commercial trapping of bobcats


Mountain lions are fascinating, sentient, and exhibit playful behaviors.

A Colorado man who built a tree swing in the woods hoping to film bear cubs captured cute footage of a mountain lion turning into a playful kitty instead.




What you should know about trophy hunting and trapping of Colorado’s big cats

Well, killing mountain lions is considered one form of ‘wildlife-related’ recreational opportunity by the state of Colorado.

Bobcats are trapped for recreation and to sell their fur, which goes back to during Colonial times, when selling and wearing fur (including bobcat) was one of the limited number of ways to earn a living and stay warm. In 2023, we can shop for synthetic outdoor clothing that also supports local businesses.

Not many people do. Each year, just 0.03% of Coloradans (2,000 people) want to hunt mountain lions and only 0.01% of Coloradans (700 people) want to trap bobcats.

Another 500 people from out of state put up money to kill a mountain lion each year in our state.

Comparatively, 456,000 applications came in last year alone for deer and elk licenses in Colorado.

Just 5% of all 5.8 million Coloradans are hunters and fewer than 1% (0.6%) of Colorado hunters ever choose to hunt lions or trap bobcats.

The words “trophy hunting” in tandem with the North American mountain lion is a common use practice, as the term saturates the industry in full public view. It is the preferred term that is promoted by mountain lion trophy hunting businesses and organizations, and the clients who pay thousands of dollars for a “trophy lion.”

Documented support for the accepted common use of “trophy hunting” applied to mountain lions:

“According to the hunters, the trophy refers to the part of the animal such as the head, skin, … as proof of their hunting victories … Trophy hunting may take various forms including ranch hunting, African trophy hunting, and North American trophy hunting … ”

“In North America, trophy hunting focuses on the mountain lion, called the puma, panther, or cougar.”
(Source: WorldAtlas: What is Trophy Hunting?)

Mountain lion trophy hunters inside the state and coming from outside of Colorado (the majority) keep the head and hide of the Colorado mountain lion they kill primarily for the trophy.

Video by Colorado Parks and Wildlife show how to preserve the skin or hide, for the taxidermist, for a mountain lion, or as the commentator says, an African leopard.

Trophy hunting mountain lions — a term saturating public view:

The term is commonplace among outfitters, trophy hunters, local and national organizations, media and academic institutions in Colorado and the West.

 A few examples:

  • Hunting magazines that talk about mountain lions use the term “trophy hunting” as the primary reason for this kind of hunting:

“But the cat isn’t only a trophy for Wolfe,” Free Range American

  • Boone & Crockett Club continues today to list mountain lion trophy entries (192 for Colorado) with score charts that determine “Trophies.”
  • Mountain lion trophy hunters across social media and in outfitter testimonials routinely explain their main goal is primarily about getting a trophy lion.

“This was defiantly (sic) an experience of a lifetime … getting me a trophy Tom.” (Canyon Rim Outfitters)

Notice that most mountain lion trophy hunting guides offer a guaranteed kill of a mountain lion in Colorado, with a 100% success rate. The accepted definition of trophy hunting is hunting of animals for pleasure with the hallmark being killing the largest males of the species.

For trophies. According to hunters, the trophy refers to the part of the animal such as the head, or hide. It also includes a collection of photos on the wall or at the kill site. Trophy hunters routinely pose with dead animals while smiling on social media for personal show and for outfitter testimonials. 

They routinely call it a dream hunt,  or a bucket list item.

Another reason people cite for hunting mountain lions is because mountain lions kill deer, their logic being mountain lions take deer hunting opportunities away from them. There is no science to suggest this is true. But it is true mountain lions eat deer. They have to. To survive.

Trappers kill bobcats for pleasure, and so they can sell the fur on the foreign market for personal profit. 

Trophy hunters use packs of dogs — up to eight — and high-tech gadgets to find elusive wild cats of Colorado. Colorado allows baiting with electronic calls (e-calls) that are recordings of distressed prey to lure them into the area. Dogs are fitted with GPS radio collars and trained to chase a mountain lion until the cat is trapped high in a tree. At that time the hunter, waiting in a vehicle or off-site for the outfitter’s call, walks up to shoot the mountain lion (or bobcat), who falls to his or her death. Videos also show dogs being injured from attacking cats on the ground.

Trappers set out thousands of traps every year without limits day or night, and are asked to check traps once a day, but enforcement is questionable, given there’s no database tracking how many animals, or what kind of non-target animals have been trapped, injured, or killed in bobcat traps.

Historically most bobcats are killed by strangulation from a “choke stick,” poison, or bludgeoning to death, because trappers say they like to preserve the cleanest pelt. Any rifle, handgun, shotgun, handheld bows, crossbows, or any air gun pre-charged can be used to kill a trapped bobcat on site, according to state guidelines. There is zero oversight of the process in the field.

No, it has been long understood that mountain lion populations are dependent upon prey (deer and elk) and having space to live. If either of these requirements decline, so will mountain lion populations. It is foolhardy to think that trophy hunting is a management tool for populations. It doesn’t work. See our science page for more.

In California, where mountain lions haven’t been hunted for a half-century, and bobcats for 3 years, the populations are stable. In other states where bobcats are not trapped, such as Connecticut and New Jersey overpopulation is not an issue of concern.

No. Trophy hunting does nothing to protect ranch animals or our pets. Peer-reviewed studies among top academic universities and leading mountain lion researchers today show that trophy hunting mountain lions increases risk to domestic animals.

See Perspective: Why might removing carnivores maintain or increase risks for domestic animals? (Biological Conservation, 2023) and more on our Science page.

Trophy hunting can increase these risks by leaving orphans and lowering population ages to younger animals with lesser hunting skills, who are more likely to get into conflict by preying on domestic animals.

Trophy hunting is just a game with only one side knowing it’s playing. 

And as science clearly shows, trophy hunting is not a tool to solve or prevent any conflict. We have professionally trained individuals at the state and federal levels who already are equipped for conflict management work that includes relocating or killing an offending animal.

Stopping trophy hunting and trapping of wild cats won’t affect Colorado’s existing and separate program to help prevent and handle conflicts.

Watch this 60-minute science presentation by Panthera, explaining how and why randomly killing trophy cats does nothing to protect livestock, and in fact puts animals at higher risk. Puma | Panthera

“When you kill one older dominant male (cougar), three younger guys come to the funeral.”
— Robert Wielgus, Ph.D. a retired Associate Professor and Director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University. He is an internationally recognized expert in the study of large carnivores and has published over 30 peer reviewed scientific papers. ​

A sighting isn’t an attack or a conflict. With the increase in the use of technology that allows us to capture footage of wildlife when humans are not present, that doesn’t mean that there are any more mountain lions than before. Populations are dependent upon prey and room. If we build in their habitat, as we are, there will be less lions around. It has always been the case that mountain lions are among us, whether we go hiking in lion country or build a home in their backyard. Trophy hunting won’t change a thing, but it could increase risk for our pets and  animals we may have like goats and sheep.

“Most people don’t see them,” said Rachael Gonzalez, a public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Obviously with technology, we see them more because they’re captured on Ring Doorbells and stuff like that. But the reality is mountain lions, they don’t want to be seen.”

Yes, in fact mountain lion attacks are extremely rare. If public safety is a concern, wild animals should be far down on the list of what we should fear. For example, automobiles caused 745 deaths in 2022 alone in Colorado. Meanwhile, mountain lions have killed just three people since 1990, in a state with a population of nearly 6 million.

Consider that 92% of Colorado residents participate in outdoor recreation each year. Rock climbing, hiking, skiing backcountry terrain, mountain biking, hunting and jogging on trails are all part of the Colorado lifestyle, where mountain lions thrive in these spaces, too.

Think about that. If lions were out to get us, we would have many more encounters and deaths. The fact is, you actually have a greater risk just driving and walking to a trailhead, than you do being touched by a mountain lion in Colorado.

In 2022 alone, there have been nine deaths from climbing 14ers; According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the death rate for rock climbing in Colorado is 12.5 per 100,000 population. This rate is higher than the national average of 10.4 per 100,000 population. According to records, more than 70 people have died climbing Longs Peak.

In 2022, Colorado recorded 46,751 deaths, with 15% from accidental drug overdoses. Most other major causes of death were illness, traffic accidents. Zero were from mountain lions.

Right, they are not. Trophy hunting mountain lions isn’t a program to manage anything except trophy hunters, so they can have their fun without overkill. Trophy hunting doesn’t make anyone, including pets and kids, safer. It also doesn’t produce more deer or protect livestock and it certainly isn’t helping individual mountain lions and bobcats or their populations. Though, it does have the distinct potential to erase them from the wilds of Colorado.

Trapping unlimited bobcats when we have no statewide data or population count isn’t managing anything, not even trappers.

See our Science Page for the top 10 Science-Backed Reasons Not To Trophy Hunt and Trap Colorado’s Wild Cats.

No. Trophy hunting and trapping are not conserving anything, but they remain the No. 1 risk to cats’ survivability as an individual or species. Colorado tries not to oversell licenses to kill lions and wipe out the species, so the hunting can continue in this user-pays model of wildlife management. This is not true conservation as most people understand it, because that would put the species ahead of the pleasure of the ticket holder.

While hunting and fishing licenses and fees contribute largely to the wildlife operating budget for our state agency, along with federal dollars and taxes and grants, trophy hunting mountain lions adds a mere 0.14% of a $198 million budget.

If Colorado stopped allowing trophy hunting of our wild cats, that would remove the No.1 risk to their survival individually and as a population statewide. When trophy hunters and those who financially benefit from them link their actions to true conservation of a species, they are being incredibly disrespectful to wildlife and to all Coloradans including fair-chase hunters.

Our state wildlife agency is obligated to remain neutral in ballot measures. 

Yes. This is exactly what we are asking for and perhaps the most important question of the day. 

There is a seismic difference between trophy hunting and trapping wild cats for pleasure and profit, versus professionally managing wildlife that occasionally will come into conflict with people, pets or livestock. 

In Colorado, we have a strong multi-agency system with innovative and financial support already in place to deal with these rare situations that Coloradans care about as much as their wildlife. We care about ranchers, and above all, we care about our children and our pets, too. 

Program biologists with federal Wildlife Services with its national Wildlife Research Center located in Fort Collins are well funded and use their professional expertise toward preventing and resolving conflicts with and damage from mountain lions in Colorado. About 200 lions are reported for conflict and 60 are reportedly killed in Colorado each year by Wildlife Services as well as landowners, law enforcement, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife for agricultural control (livestock protection) and other conflicts. 

Trophy hunting is its own game and as science clearly shows is not a tool to solve or prevent any conflict. We have professionally trained individuals at the state and federal levels who already are equipped for conflict management work that includes relocating or killing an offending animal.

Stopping trophy hunting and trapping of wild cats won’t affect Colorado’s existing and separate program to help prevent and handle conflicts. So yes, please, we need CPW to do its job.

More specifically, program biologists with federally tax-funded Wildlife Services (USDA) with its national Wildlife Research Center located in Fort Collins use their professional expertise toward preventing and resolving conflicts with and damage from mountain lions in Colorado. About 200 lions are reported as “conflict lions” in Colorado each year and dozens are killed by Wildlife Services as well as landowners, law enforcement, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife for agricultural control (livestock protection) and other conflicts. This has nothing to do with random trophy hunting of mountain lions in Colorado. See data chart below provided by CPW.

USDA on its website says that it resolves wildlife conflicts in Colorado:

“Every day, the Wildlife Services (WS) program in Colorado helps citizens, organizations, industries, and Government agencies resolve conflicts with wildlife to protect agriculture, property, and natural resources, and to safeguard human health and safety. WS’ professional wildlife biologists and specialists implement effective, selective, and responsible strategies that value wildlife, the environment, and the resources being protected. WS manages wildlife damage according to its public trust stewardship responsibilities as a Federal natural resource management program. WS supports the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, based on the principle that wildlife resources are owned collectively and held in trust by Government for the benefit of present and future generations.”

Producers (ranchers) often turn to Wildlife Services to reduce and prevent further predation. “Wildlife Services’ integrated approach includes recommendations applied by producers and, in many cases, operational wildlife management implemented by Wildlife Services.”

Livestock production is an important industry in Colorado. Losses could be two to three times higher in the absence of (this program’s) livestock protection.

Wildlife Services-Colorado (offices in Lakewood) works cooperatively with the State agriculture and wildlife agencies, counties, and local livestock associations to reduce predation damage for livestock producers.

WS works in partnership with agencies, organizations, and individuals around the nation to protect livestock from predation. Much of WS’ operational management assistance to producers is supported by funds provided by states, counties, producers, and others, in addition to Federally appropriated dollars.

This graf shows about 60 mountain lions are killed in Colorado by state and federal agencies for conflict

We have inherited a 150-year-old wild cat trophy hunting program that is outdated and set up solely to benefit a very small number of trophy hunters and trappers. Change is hard but required if we want to follow the best modern science and do our best job protecting wildlife on a broader ecosystem level, and for benefiting all Coloradans, while serving public safety, and preventing conflict. Once we end mountain lion trophy hunting and trapping of wild cats, CPW will have a tremendous window of opportunity to shift its focus away from random trophy killing that serves no public good, and contribute more positive research on predators as intrinsically valuable alive. As we make room to better understand these predators, and grow our appreciation, this can calm fears and reduce complaints and conflict, and that is a very good direction for Colorado to take.

No. Not for wildlife, and not for Colorado. Mountain lion trophy hunting and trapping of bobcats has steadily increased over the past 15 years, with added technology to make it too easy. We’ve spent countless government staff hours and dollars just administering a program that yields a drop in the bucket to the wildlife budget, and likely costs more than it brings in. All for the pleasure of 0.03% of people in our state. The methods are unfair and give all hunters a black eye, which is why a majority of Coloradans including many hunters do not support it.

Not at all. This is just an attempt to say the end always justifies the means, and to cover up the truth. Coloradans are smart and know better.

Eating mountain lions is just not part of our American culture today. We don’t find mountain lions in our grocery store, and because we only have a few thousand mountain lions in existence, it would never be a good way to feed a family. We also have laws against eating cats as well as dogs in our country.

In terms of the word trophy, this is a term that was created by trophy hunters and is still used broadly today by mountain lion hunting outfitters, guides, hunting magazines and trophy hunters themselves. Anyone who shies away from calling it what it truly is, is just trying to make trophy hunting of mountain lions more palatable to Coloradans. This would be a disingenuous act.

Because the more Coloradans learn about what trophy hunting mountain lions truly is, the more Colorado will see how far it strays from true conservation, which by definition means: “thoughtful management, and not exploitation.”

Outfitters will often tell clients in Colorado that they can guarantee a kill, 100%, which is nothing any ethical hunter should accept, but common commercial practice in African trophy hunt businesses. From one Colorado mountain lion trophy hunting website: 100% Success … most of your travel will be on an atv or utv  … You have a great chance at a book (record Trophy) Lion.

The majority of Coloradans have consistently voiced their distaste for trophy hunting wild cats in Colorado. In 2023, doctorate-level wildlife carnivore researchers with Colorado State University released a preliminary report that is in the process of publication. The report found that 80.6% of Coloradans opposed killing of lions or bobcats for their hides or fur and 77.9% for trophies. In terms of hunting methods, 88.2% opposed the use of hounds in hunting lions, while 75.2% oppose the use of electronic calls to lure lions within shooting range.

This data falls in line with earlier studies, including a 2020 study showing 69% of Coloradans oppose recreational hunting of mountain lions. In 2019, a majority of Westerners said they oppose hunting mountain lions in a poll taken by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, funded by a Multistate Conservation Grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.


Photos are from Mountain Lion Foundation, Wild Animal Sanctuary, Carol Baskin of the Big Cat Rescue, Thomas D. Mangelsen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, John Niewoonder-Michigan Dept of Natural Resources, mlucid-Idaho Fish and Game, peavineCat2 or from public domain sources.