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Changing Hunting Season Would Save Mountain Lion Kittens, Study Shows

Hogan Films
F61 and kitten play

Mountain lion hunting season started September 1but a new study by the wildlife conservation group, Panthera, shows that fewer mountain lion mothers and kittens would die if the hunting was moved back to December 1 instead. 

It’s illegal in most states, including Wyoming, to kill mountain lion mothers with kittens, but many are killed accidentally because females frequently travel without their young and it’s hard to tell they have kittens. But until now, no one knew exactly when these animals gave birth or how long kittens stayed in the den.

Panthera’s Puma Program Director Mark Elbroch said, using GPS collars, they discovered that most lions give birth mid-summer and stay with their young for up to a year and a half. 

“Mountain lions have a very long mother/kitten relationship during which she is mentoring them, sort of teaching them to be successful adult mountain lions. That includes how to kill prey, what to hunt, where to hunt, how to avoid danger,” he said.

Elbroch said if a mother is killed before the kitten is over a year old, it won’t survive.

He said moving back the hunting season would help bring up mountain lion numbers in places like the Tetons where the species has declined by half.

“By waiting and pushing back the hunting season to better align with these denning periods, we would be able to provide hunters with the best opportunity to identify females accompanied by kittens, which are not just illegal to hunt, but hunters truly want to protect them to ensure that mountain lion populations are healthy.”

Elbroch said their research shows that changing the season would protect about 91 percent of the youngest mountain lion kittens from perishing.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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