As mountain lion sightings in the region increase, there has been talk about allowing more hunting to thin their numbers. Your take?
To say I’m an avid user of open space is like saying that Boulder leans left. I’m running, climbing or cycling in the hills above Boulder at least five days a week, frequently every day of the week. I’ve been doing it for more than a quarter of a century, on every day of the year.
I’ve seen deer that are so used to humans that I’ve run within six feet of them, almost close enough to pat them on the back. On Green Mountain, in the darkness of a very early morning, I once followed a bear up the Amphitheater Trail until it eventually detoured off the trail.
In all that time, I’ve still never seen a mountain lion. How cool would it be to see a lion? A lion! People travel to Africa to see lions, yet we have them right here. One of the greatest benefits of living where we do is being close to so much wildlife.
Mountain lions and bears are large, powerful, and very dangerous if they attack, but they very rarely attack humans. There have been three Colorado fatalities from mountain lions in more than 100 years of record keeping. Lions seem to instinctively know that humans aren’t prey.
We already have to hunt elk and deer to help control their populations, mainly because we’ve driven away their predators. Hunting lions would just exacerbate the problem and we’d then have to kill more deer. Killing will just lead to more killing.
While hunters are generally quite safe, with fewer than 1,000 shooting accidents per year in the U.S. and fewer than 75 deaths, those 75 deaths per year are seven times the number of U.S. deaths by mountain lions in the last 50 years combined. It is 350 times more likely that someone will be killed by a hunting accident than a cougar.
Possibly the overall risk to humans would increase if we had hunters in our open space. Hunting lions would be a mistake.
Bill Wright, firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the only predators that can naturally thin the mountain lion population is the wolf, which humans eradicated from Colorado in the 1940s. When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, the overall health of the ecosystem improved because wolves go after the weaker, sicklier animals.
Human hunters tend to look for the healthier specimens, meaning that while recreational hunting may help with overpopulation, it doesn’t necessarily improve the health of the population. This fall, there will be a statewide ballot initiative to reintroduce gray wolves into Colorado by 2023. It will be the first time in the United States that voters will be able to decide on wolf reintroduction.
I don’t know how effective wolf reintroduction will be at stemming mountain lion excursions into Front Range communities, but making efforts to restore the natural predator-prey relationships that existed long before we came to this land feels right and just. Simply issuing more mountain lion hunting licenses seems unlikely to stem the problem of mountain lions coming into populated areas.
My understanding is that some mountain lions develop the habit of coming into populated areas because they’ve learned that they can find food more easily in those areas, but presumably we’re not talking about allowing mountain lion hunting within city limits, so how do we know that the hunters will be killing the problem lions?
Hunting is a blunt instrument for dealing with a minor problem. There have been just 27 fatal mountain lion attacks on humans in the entire United States in the last 100 years. We have bigger problems to deal with right now.
Jane Hummer, email@example.com
I have had only one encounter with a mountain lion in my life. It was here in Boulder on Mount Sanitas. One day a week, usually on Tuesdays, I hike Sanitas Trail around 5 a.m. It is a great workout, and I do it year round.
One July morning a few years back, I arrived at the trail head and started my trek. It was still dark and my headlamp was blazing the way. As I approached the saddle in the west ridge just before the first false summit, I saw them.
Two gigantic eyes, smack in the middle of the trail, staring back at me about 20 feet away. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at, but then, with the help of my head lamp, I could make out the lion’s face, the ridge of his back, and its tail. I froze, then cursed, and then remembered back to my mountain lion training; which fully consisted of one four-minute song from Boulder’s own Jeff and Paige. Thanks Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks for that training!
All right, so after freezing and cursing, I took off my pack and made myself look big. To my surprise, the mountain lion didn’t move. It just stood there staring at me.
Honestly, I was surprised because I thought that as soon as this big guy caught wind of me, off, he would go. But no! We were locked in a staring contest. “Damn it!” I thought. I really wanted to get a workout in and this dude is standing in my way. What to do next?
Since my presence alone wasn’t enough to budge this lion, I had to do something else. Yelling and harassing him was next move. I start yelling and banging my hands together. “Yes! that worked! He moved!” I thought. But, my joy was short lived because he had just moved onto the ridge about 10 feet above me. Now he had the high ground. I was doubly screwed.
After about five minutes of playing this game, another hiker (a tourist) came up behind me. What’s going on?” he asked. “There is a mountain lion right above the trail. Can’t you see it?” I said.
“No” said the tourist (he was not wearing a headlamp and it was still dark). “Is it safe to go?” he said. “I think,” I said, “You go first.”
So, off we went, me and the tourist, directly under the mountain lion. The tourist placed strategically between me and the lion and the mountain lion’s big, glowing eyes staring down at us. Having made the trek often and in better shape, as soon as I cleared to a safe area, I was gone. I never heard a scream, so I assume the tourist returned unscathed.
My take: Lion populations fluctuate with the availability of prey. Let them be; it’s their habitat. As for me, I am always looking for early morning hiking partners, preferably slightly slower than me.
My email is below, feel free to reach out to me if you are up for it.
Doug Hamilton, firstname.lastname@example.org