Nevada still uses the Comprehensive Mountain Lion Management Plan written in 1995. Decisions regarding mountain lions in Nevada appear to be increasingly dictated by politics rather than sound science. Nevada's mountain lion sport hunting quota remains high: 243 lions in the 2015-16 season. The 20% quota exceeds the 12 to 16% that is widely accepted as the top limit for maintaining viable lion populations in good circumstances, and does not take into account many other causes of mortality. Lions have also been killed through the legislatively mandated Predator Management Program. Between July 2016 and June 2017, $570,000 may be used to kill mountain lions.
NDOW has been managing mountain lions a big game mammal since 1965. Nevada still uses the Comprehensive Mountain Lion Management Plan written in 1995. In that plan, the Nevada Department of Wildlife stated that its goals and objectives are to:
Unfortunately, the plan has not done much to benefit lions and is merely a way to set annual hunting quotas and predator culling goals for specific game management areas.
A review of available documents found:
Since 1917 (the first year records are available) until 2015, an estimated 8,510 mountain lions have been killed by humans in Nevada, with 80 percent of these deaths occurring after 1965 when mountain lions were classified as game animals.
This figure does not include:
Nevada's Mountain Lion Hunting Season runs all year, from March 1 through February 28. Night hunting is also allowed. Nevada's 29 Game Management Units (GMUs) are combined into three hunting regions (Western, Eastern, and Southern). Hunting quotas are established for each of these regions rather than for individual GMUs.
When the quota (also called "harvest objective") has been met for a given hunting region, the lion season is closed in that region. With this policy it is possible that some Game Management Units might experience greater lion mortality than others within the same hunting region.
In 2003, Nevada provided a gender breakdown of its mountain lion harvests for the years 1998 through 2001. During this 4-year period 41 percent (282) of the total human-caused mountain lion mortalities were female cougars.
According to MLF's 11 western state study of human-caused mountain lion mortalities (1992-2001) the Nevada Game Management Units (GMUs) most responsible for mountain lion deaths were numbers 12, 11, 5, 6, and 2. From 1997 to 2001, these GMUs accounted for 285 human-caused mountain lion mortalities.
During this time period these GMUs were responsible for 29 percent of human-caused mountain lion mortalities while encompassing only 11 percent of Nevada's mountain lion habitat. GMU-12 was ranked as Nevada's number one killing field during the study period with an average mortality density rating of 1.5.
Decisions regarding mountain lions in Nevada appear to be increasingly dictated by politics rather than sound science. Greg Tanner, a wildlife biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, is quoted in an April 12, 2004 High Country News article as saying that "Game commissions make decisions based on what they hear from their sportsmen constituents."
This opinion of political manipulation of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commission (NBWC) by hunting groups was reinforced on December 5, 2009 when the NBWC approved three projects sought by private sportsmen groups to kill the predators of mule deer and sage grouse — specifically mountain lions. This approval was made despite arguments against the plan presented by the Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
In a March 9, 2010, Reno Gazette Journal news article Tony Wasley, a NDOW mule deer specialist, stated that controlling predators won't stop the disappearance of the sagebrush-covered terrain that deer depend on in Nevada and much of the West. "We're talking about a landscape-scale phenomenon here," Wasley said. "The [Nevada deer] population is limited by habitat. Where there is insufficient habitat, all the predator control in the world won't result in any benefit." Unfortunately his argument, and those of fellow biologists, has not debunked the popular opinion of many hunters (that an exploding mountain lion population is eradicating Nevada's deer herd) or those of their sympathetic lawmakers.
Also in March 2010 the implementation of the special mountain lion removal plan was put on hold when, citing lack of full support from Nevada officials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services (WS) refused to carry it out. As a result of this refusal, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commission has now created the Mule Deer Restoration Sub-Committee with the stated purpose of helping to restore mule deer numbers in the state. There is some question as to the impartiality of this committee. At its second public meeting on April 15, 2010, committee liaisons with the Nevada Cattlemen's Association, Nevada Farm Bureau, and Wildlife Services (the agency which carries out the state's predator control directives) were announced.
AB291 Introduced at the 71st session of the Nevada State Legislature on March 6, 2001 sought to establish a fee for all Nevada hunt permit applications to be used for predator management. NRS 502.253 was signed into law May 31, 2001. This legislation created an additional application processing fee ($3) for all game tags to be used by NDOW for costs related to:
According to the March 2016 draft of Nevada's Predator Management Plan FY 2017, there are three projects relating to mountain lions, but five total programs which amount to $570,000.