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Wyoming may soon see a mountain lion pursuit season – where cats are treed and not killed 

National Park Service

Wyoming may soon have a new type of hunting season – a mountain lion pursuit season. Supporters say it could help manage human and animal conflicts with lions.

Senate File 178 recently passed the Senate and would establish a mountain lion pursuit season, which is where hunters could use their dogs to tree lions, but not kill them. Currently, when quotas for lions killed are met or hunters fill their lion tag, they cannot legally continue to pursue the lions for training.

“The benefits of this, of catch and release of cats, are that they learn respect for people and dogs which really does reduce livestock pet and human confrontation,” Luke Worthington, the founder of the Wyoming Houndsmen Association, said.

Just last week, authorities killed a mountain lion near Tetonia, Idaho, as it had killed a family’s dog and was hiding under their porch.

Worthington referenced attacks in California and Colorado, as well, saying he thinks a pursuit season could prevent attacks from happening in Wyoming.

“When a lion associates a human and a canine together, they associate that so then when they come down to your farm ground or ranches and dogs are barking, they know that noise,” he said. “They put those together so hopefully it keeps them back.”

Although no one testified against the bill, some animal groups dispute mountain lion hunting altogether – calling it ‘cruel and inhumane.’ The Mountain Lion Foundation also supports sustaining and even increasing mountain lion populations in order to balance the ecosystem.

“Without large predators to cull the weaker, older, and disease prone animals, several generations are born and pass on less hardy genes,” the site reads. “But when food becomes scarce as a result of prey extinctions and over-populations, some species, despite their increased numbers, find themselves at a genetic disadvantage, unable to compete, subject to epidemics, and prey to more viable or adaptable species. As the ecosystem crashes, these middle species, too, may disappear.”

But, in Wyoming hunting and killing mountain lions are the accepted management tool for the species in much of our region. Sponsor of the bill Senator Brian Boner (R-Douglas) said his goal with the pursuit season is to help out agriculture producers, adding that they deal with mountain lions killing their livestock. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) testified that this is particularly an issue in eastern Wyoming.

“I'll use northern Natrona County and southern Johnson County as an example,” said Rick King, WGFD chief of wildlife and chief game warden. “We have a lot of depredation issues there, a lot of sheep losses. And so in that particular area, we have an unlimited quota, and a year round season.”

Nevertheless, if a hunter fills a tag, they still cannot legally continue pursuing more lions. This new pursuit season would exist in areas where mountain lion hunting already is permitted. A hunter would have to get a permit in order to take advantage of the pursuit season.

The bill now advances to the House.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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