Wyoming's Grand Tetons south of Yellowstone near Jackson Hole.
  Photo Courtesy of Trey Ratcliff / Stuck in Customs
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Urge Wyoming to decrease hunting quotas and allow the state's lion population to recover.

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.

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Wyoming Department of Game and Fish

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Wyoming's Mountain Lion Management

Since 2007, Wyoming Game and Fish has been successfully reducing the state's mountain lion population in an attempt to bolster mule deer numbers. The number of mountain lions killed by hunters increased from 180 in 2006 to 306 in 2013, and has leveled off or decreased slightly since 2013. During this same time period, the proportion of older trophy male mountain lions killed by hunters each year has decreased, while the proportion of females and younger males killed has increased.

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.

Graph of human-caused lion mortality in az.
This research provided the fodder for local citizens to speak out and put pressure on wildlife managers. A record number of people commented on proposed changes to wildlife regulations and were rewarded for their efforts. Directly motivated by the research conducted by the Teton Cougar Project, the public successfully pressured the state into reducing the study area's mountain lion quota by 75 percent. Unfortunately, that attention didn't spread to other parts of the state. While the quota in study area's hunting unit was greatly reduced, statewide hunting limits increased by 44 percent.

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!

ON AIR: Clay Nielsen on Mapping Dispersal

06/09/11 An Audio Interview with Craig Fergus, MLF Volunteer

In this edition of our audio podcast ON AIR, volunteer Craig Fergus interviews wildlife biologist Clayton Nielsen about his work mapping dispersal corridors for mountain lions into the Midwest, and analyzing areas of good habitat in anticipation of potential breeding populations in the region.

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Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Commonly abbreviated as: WGFD

Scott Talbott, Director

Main Office:
5400 Bishop Blvd
Cheyenne, WY 82006
(307) 777-4600

Large Carnivore Management

Dan Thompson
Lander Regional Office
260 Buena Vista Dr.
Lander, WY, 82520
(307) 332-3688

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

Thank the agency when they take steps to protect our state's mountain lions. When they fall short of expectations, politely ask for policy reform.


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