CPW lion management aims for stability in numbers

 Many Coloradans go a lifetime without ever getting the chance to see an elusive mountain lion in the wild.

Others, unfortunately, encounter them far too close to home, raising concerns about potential conflicts between the big cats and humans.

New Colorado Parks and Wildlife management measures seek to maintain healthy levels of lions while addressing concerns that can arise at the local level.

A West Slope Lion Management Plan adopted by the Wildlife Commission late last year “provides a science-based framework for maintaining a stable lion population across the entire West Slope for the foreseeable future,” agency spokesman Travis Duncan said in an emailed response to questions for this story.

The West Slope plan consolidates and revises 13 older plans into an overarching one managing lions at a larger scale “more biologically appropriate for a far-ranging species that regularly moves across the state and beyond,” Duncan said.

The agency believes about 3,800-4,400 independent/mature lions are living in Colorado.

The West Slope plan makes an exception to the population stability goal in western Colorado in the case of a newly created 1,800-square-mile Glenwood Springs Special Management Area, where numbers are to be reduced for safety because of a high number of lion sightings in places such as neighborhoods.

The new plan also includes a controversial provision allowing the use of electronic calls, albeit on a limited basis. Hunters already could use mouth calls to attract lions to them. Electronic calls can make use of speakers to draw a lion away from the hunter, and also can be used to imitate the sounds of various prey.

Use has drawn concerns from critics about the ethical concept of fair chase. Duncan said electronic calls will provide “an additional tool for lion harvest under very specific conditions and rationale.”

In January, the Wildlife Commission allowed use of electronic calls in the Glenwood management area and parts of southwest Colorado near the Utah border. Parks and Wildlife views the calls as helpful in achieving goals where factors might limit other tools, such as in the case of hunting on small acreages not conducive to using hounds.

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