COUGAR CONCERNS: Public weighs in on lion season proposal

(Jeff Moberg photo)

BY JEFF MOBERG [email protected]

Nearly 70 folks from around the region turned out at the Courthouse basement on Thursday to participate in the Wyoming Game and Fish’s public meeting aimed at making significant changes to the mountain lion hunting season within a portion of Crook and Weston Counties. The proposed addition of a new hunt area carved out of existing areas would take in largely private land and would have an unlimited quota.

Crook County landowners concerned about livestock depredation and a limited opportunity to reduce the lion population on their lands have called on the Game and Fish to make the change. Under the existing hunt area allocation officials noted that the quotas across the county are generally met and the season closed after the first snowstorms of the season. Given that the Bearlodge Mountains and Moskee areas generally are the first to receive those storms – which are key to a successful hunt – the great majority of lions are harvested in those areas. Private lands, which may not receive accumulating snows until later in the season but who are part of the same hunt areas/quota system, generally have few if any lions harvested.

Opponents to the proposed changes challenged the department over the criteria they used to estimate lion populations in the area and argued that actual documented cases of livestock predation do not justify the outcry which precipitated the proposed changes. They also questioned whether concerns over threats to deer populations were a legitimate worry.

Written comments on the proposed change will be accepted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission through June 12. They will decide on the proposal at their meeting in July.