Wyoming Game and Fish has been successfully reducing the state's mountain lion population numbers for the last several years. Despite strong data and recommendations from their own biologists to lower hunting quotas, the state has continued to increase hunter harvest.
Public pressure successfully convinced Game and Fish to lower hunting limits in one game management unit, with added pressure perhaps we can persuade the state to set lower limits in the rest of the state.
This change in harvest proportions points towards one hard truth: a population in decline. Hunters prefer large, prime-aged male mountain lions. When there are fewer mature male mountain lions in the population, hunters shift to killing the demographic groups that remain, namely younger animals and females. The demographic shifts in hunter-caught individuals are likely reflective of changes in the population structure as a whole. Fewer mature resident males, heavier harvest pressure on other age groups, and higher female mortality all lead to declining mountain lion numbers. Further compounding the influence of overharvest, hunting females is particularly problematic to maintaining a viable population because they are the ones who raise the kittens.
Exactly how hunting influences the population trajectory is no mystery. Local research led by the Teton Cougar Project shed new light on the influence hunting has on the state's mountain lion population. They found that the study area's mountain lion population declined by nearly fifty percent over the last decade, and that reducing the hunting limit in the unit from five to three animals could halt that decline.
Once again, citizens need to join together to let the Game Commission know that they've made the first step in protecting the lion population, and now they need to see it through to the rest of the state. The Commission needs to ensure that mountain lions can persist in healthy numbers by reducing harvest quotas throughout Wyoming. Write a letter, send an email, or make a call to the Game Commission and tell them what you think!