New Mexico path through Tent Rocks.
 
Photograph of lion cornered on rocky cliff by multiple hunting hounds.

THE STATUS OF LIONS IN NEW MEXICO

New Mexico still allows trapping on much of its public lands.

Since 1971, when they became a "protected" species in New Mexico, more than 6,630 mountain lions have been reported killed by humans. About 90 percent of the total deaths during this time period were a result of recreational hunting. Around 5 percent died for New Mexico's preemptive mountain lion control programs (livestock & bighorn sheep), with the remaining 5 percent occurring as a result of known depredation, road kills, and uncategorized mortalities. Trapping now threatens the lives of even more lions, wildlife, and domestic animals.

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New Mexico's Mountain Lion Management


Like most states, New Mexico's first lion management plan took the form of paying a bounty for every lion killed where the pelt was turned over to authorities. This program continued in New Mexico until 1970.

Recreational Hunting

In 1971, mountain lions became a "protected" species, under the management authority of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. In that year the Department initiated a 4-month regulated hunting season in the southwest corner of the state, with spotted kittens and females accompanied by kittens protected from being hunted. Over the years the length of the hunting season, the size of the legal hunt areas, and the hunting harvest limits have been expanded to be year-long events (April through March), and include almost all of the state.

In 1983, New Mexicos agricultural industry, concerned with potential livestock depredation, introduced a legislative bill to eliminate the mountain lions so-called protected status. While the bill was eventually tabled for lack of information, it did cause NMDGF to produce a detailed report on lions in New Mexico (Evans 1983). The reports final recommendations resulted in reducing the 1984 harvest limit, and shortened (for a year) New Mexicos lion hunting season.

In 1999, NMDGF implemented a mountain lion harvest quota system based on Game Management Unit (GMU). New Mexico is divided into 69 GMUs, each with its own lion population estimates and hunting quotas.

Depredation

Depredation is defined in New Mexico as "property damage by protected wildlife on privately owned or leasehold interest land, where damage value exceeds applicable income earned on that site from the wildlife species causing damage."

NMDGF issues depredation permits against mountain lions on any verified complaint.

Mountain Lion Control Programs (Preventative Kills)

New Mexico Game Management Unit Map

New Mexico has two long-term programs which attempt to protect other species by lethally removing mountain lions from specific geographic locations.

The first program, passed by the NMDGF Commission in 1985, was in response to an increasing number of livestock reported killed by mountain lions in GMU-30. In 1986, The Commission ordered NMDGF to preemptively kill mountain lions found on ranches that had more than 6 verified lion depredation occurrences in any 3-year period. A maximum of 14 mountain lions can be lethally removed from GMU-30 in any given year as part of this program. Since the programs inception, at least 206 mountain lions have been killed in GMU-30.

The second program was created by the NMDGF Commission in 1997 in response to declining rocky mountain and desert bighorn sheep populations. Bighorn sheep hunting-tags auction off for large sums of money, thereby providing an economic incentive for NMDGF to remove natural predators, and assist bighorn sheep herds which have been decimated by detrimental climate, deteriorating habitat, and diseases introduced by domestic sheep grazing on public lands.

In 1999 the Commission authorized NMDGF to preemptively kill up to 34 mountain lions each year from the following five mountain ranges: Peloncillo, Ladron, Hatchets, San Andres, and Fra Cristobal. During the first 8 years of the program (1999-2006) 103 mountain lions were killed as part of this program.

Human-Caused Lion Mortalities in New Mexico

Since 1917, (the first year records are available) at least 7,779 mountain lions have been reported killed by human in New Mexico.

This figure does not include:

  • secondary poisoning,
  • orphaned kitten mortalities,
  • death by unknown causes,
  • poaching, and
  • the "shoot-shovel-and-shut up" practices espoused by some ranchers.
 
Graph of human-caused lion mortality in New Mexico.


Since 1971, when they became a "protected" species in New Mexico, at least 6,630 mountain lions have been reported killed by humans. About 90 percent of the total deaths since 1971 were a result of recreational hunting. Around 5 percent died for New Mexico's preemptive mountain lion control programs (livestock & bighorn sheep), with the remaining 5 percent occurring as a result of known depredation, road kills, and uncategorized mortalities.

2015 Trapping Proposal

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department (NMGFD) opened it's cougar hunting regulations for amendments. This only happens once ever four years. On August 27, 2015 the NMGFD Commission adopted a proposal to allow the use of snares and traps to kill lions, as well as making it easier for deer and elk hunters to kill any lions they randomly come across. Trapping is a cruel and indiscriminate practice that injures and kills millions of wildlife and pets annually. The Commission ignored the voice of the public and the science. We lost this round but the fight is far from over. Check out the Action tab to learn more.


ON AIR: Phil Carter - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

03/19/13 An Audio Interview with Julie West, MLF Broadcaster

In this edition of our audio podcast ON AIR, MLF Volunteer Julie West interviews mountain lion program manager Phil Carter of Animal Protection of New Mexico. Carter discusses the often ridiculous lengths the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish will go to to disregard the public, bury scientific research, and ignore all common sense. Trying to protect mountain lions in New Mexico and incorporate the best science into management has turned into a game of one step forward, two steps back.

SIGN THE GROUP COMMENT LETTER ON THE US FOREST SERVICE PLAN FOR THE SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

08/05/16

The U.S. Forest Service is revising its plan for the Santa Fe National Forest. The Mountain Lion Foundation and our partners in New Mexico want to take this opportunity to request that the Forest Service prohibit trapping in the Caja del Rio and other areas of Santa Fe National Forest that are used by recreationalists.

Click here to open a new window and visit the agency's website...

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

Commonly abbreviated as: NMDGF

Alexa Sandoval, Director

Main Office:
1 Wildlife Way
Santa Fe, NM 87507
(505) 476-8000
ispa@state.nm.us


Bear and Cougar Biologist
Rick Winslow
PO Box 25112
Santa Fe, NM 87504
frederic.winslow@state.nm.us
(505) 476-8046

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

Thank NMDGF 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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