Snowy mountains in Colorado with blooming wild flowers at the base.
 
Photograph of Colorado state capitol building.

COLORADO LAW AFFECTING MOUNTAIN LIONS

Mule deer studies are planning to kill hundreds of mountain lions.

Like most western states, mountain lions were once a bountied predator. Today, the species is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as a game animal. Lions are killed for sport, for research, and in the hopes of protecting livestock.

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Colorado Cougar Laws and Regulations


In Colorado's legal code, Puma concolor is generally referred to as "mountain lion".

Species Status

The species is classified as big game, along with elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, rocky mountain bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep, rocky mountain goat, pronghorn antelope, black bear, and "all species of large mammals that may be introduced or transplanted into this state for hunting or are classified as big game by the commission." Laws pertaining to Colorado's threatened and endangered species do not apply to mountain lions because the law is for the management of nongame animals.

State Law

Generally, treatment of wildlife in the State of Colorado is governed by the Colorado Revised Statutes - the state's collection of its laws. Since our summary below may not be completely up to date, you should be sure to review the most current law for the State of Colorado.

Colorado does not maintain a state-managed website of its statutes. Instead, the state contracts with a company called LexisNexis to publish its laws. The Colorado Revised Statutes may be viewed online here. These statutes are searchable. Be sure to use the name "mountain lion" to accomplish your searches.

The Legislature

The Colorado General Assembly is the state's legislature. It is a bicameral legislature. The upper chamber is the Senate while the House of Representatives is the lower chamber. Colorado maintains a single website for its state legislature. The House of Representatives is made up of 65 members who serve 2-year terms. The Senate has 35 members who serve 4-year terms. Members of each chamber are limited to 8 consecutive years in office. Colorado's directory of House of Representatives members can be found here , and the directory of state senators can be found here. Each year, the General Assembly must convene at 10:00 am no later than the second Wednesday of January. A regular session then lasts a maximum of 120 days. The governor or two-thirds of the members of each chamber may also call special sessions.

State Regulation

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission sets the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Regulations. The regulations are enforced by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The complete list of regulations can be found here. Regulations related to mountain lions held in captivity can be found below under its own subheading.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is made up of 11 voting members appointed by the governor. The voting members must consist of three members who are sportsmen or sportswomen, one of whom must be an outfitter; three agricultural producers; three recreationalists, including one from a non-profit, non-consumptive wildlife organization; and two at-large members. All members are expected to represent all parks and wildlife issues. At least four members must be from west of the Continental Divide. The Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources and the Commissioner of Agriculture are ex-officio omission members. The commission sets Colorado's parks and wildlife policies with the goal of maintaining recreational activity.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is an agency within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. CPW enforces the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission's regulations and policies.

Hunting Law

Hunting of mountain lions is allowed in the State of Colorado. The regulations governing "recreational" hunting of mountain lions specify 180 units.

Hound hunting is allowed, but packs are limited to 8 dogs.

Mountain lions may be hunted with rifles firing cartridges of .24 caliber or larger, muzzle-loading rifles and smoothbore muskets with a minimum caliber of .40, shotguns no smaller than 20 gauge, handguns that fire bullets of at least 45 grains and produce at least 400 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle, handheld bows, and crossbows. Mountain lion season generally runs from late November to April 30.

"Harvest limit quotas" Colorado does not set sex-specific limit quotas, but prohibits the killing of any lion young enough to still have spots or any lion accompanied by one or more kittens.

Public Safety Policy

According to Colorado's big game hunting regulations, the Parks and Wildlife Director or his/her designee may appoint licensed hunters, houndsmen, or trappers to remove a mountain lion by any legal means when the lion is "frequenting areas of incompatibility with other users as may be necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare." Those appointed to head a mountain lion removal operation are drawn from a list of applicants judged by their ability to respond, skill, experience, location, and the ability as hunters, houndsmen, or trappers. Lions killed in removal operations are property of the state and must be delivered to a Parks and Wildlife officer within five days.

Depredation Law

Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations govern the state's response to depredating mountain lions. The policy specifies that, like the state's public safety regulations, the Parks and Wildlife Director or his/her designee will appoint licensed hunters, houndsmen, or trappers to remove a mountain lion by any legal means when the lion is attacking livestock. The appointed licensed hunters, houndsmen, or trappers are drawn from the same list as those used in removal operations for public safety. If the depredating lion is killed, the carcass is property of the state and must be delivered to a Parks and Wildlife officer within five days. However, Colorado Department of Agriculture regulations allow the livestock's owner or their designee to kill or trap the attacking lion. Owners of domestic animals are required to take certain steps to protect their livestock, including paying into the state's animal protection fund. There is a government-funded compensation program for losses of domestic animals to mountain lions, but the state is not liable for any damage when the property's owner has "unreasonably" restricted hunting on his/her land.

Trapping

Mountain lions may not be trapped for fur in Colorado. The regulations governing trapping in Colorado do not list mountain lions as furbearing animals. Any non-target animal caught in a trap must be immediately released with or without the assistance of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Accidentally captured wildlife may not be killed. If the trap has killed the mountain lion, the carcass must be delivered to a CPW officer within 5 days.

Poaching

Poaching law in the State of Colorado provides some protection of mountain lions in law, but only as a deterrent. It is rare for penalties to be sufficiently harsh to keep poachers from poaching again. Hunting or killing a mountain lion outside of mountain lion hunting season or in a closed area is a misdemeanor. The offending hunter(s) is fined twice the cost of Colorado's most expensive mountain lion hunting license and receives 15 license suspension points. Accruing 20 or more license suspension points over a five-year period results in the suspension of hunting, trapping, and fishing license privileges for up to 5 years. Having one's license suspended three or more times results in a lifetime suspension, which may be appealed after 15 years.

Road Mortalities

The Colorado Department of Transportation does not keep records of mountain lions killed on the State's roads.


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Environmental Scorecard

Conservation Colorado

The Colorado Legislative Conservation Scorecard highlights the priorities of the conservation community in the current legislative session. Here, you will find factual, nonpartisan information on bills related to our environment and how each member of the legislature voted on issues that affect Colorado's air, land, water, and people. Find out how your elected officials voted, and see how well their votes align with your conservation values. We encourage you to call or write to your legislators and let them know you're paying attention to their environmental scores!

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Commonly abbreviated as: CPW

Bob Broscheid, Parks and Wildlife Director
dnr_cpwcommission@state.co.us

Jerry Apker, Carnivore Coordinator
719-587-6922
jerry.apker@state.co.us

Monte Vista Office
Kalanimoku Building
0722 South Rd 1 East,
Monte Vista CO 81144
(303) 297-1192


Please write to the director and express your concern for lions in HI.

Thank the agency when they take steps to protect our state's cougars. When they fall short of expectations, politely ask for policy reform and more officer training.
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