Hello again and thank you for reading! My last blog was on the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, and before that Mule Deer, this time let’s talk about another valley resident and predator to deer and bighorn, Mountain Lions. They are stealthy, deadly, powerful cats that prey on live animals. The staple of a lion’s diet is deer. It is said that 1 lion will kill at least 1 deer a week. Lions also prey on elk, cats, dogs, livestock, and humans, anything they can catch. Easy prey for a mountain lion is an elk calf or a deer or antelope fawn. In the last 20 years there have only been 3 human deaths in Colorado related to a mountain lion attack. I was not able to find how many attacks have occurred but not resulted in death. A human attack is rare.
I have observed on social networking a picture of a hunter with a legally harvested deer or elk does not receive near the amount of backlash as a hunter with a legally harvested lion or bear. I spoke with Justin Krall, Custer County’s Division of Wildlife Officer to ask him some questions to try to make this blog as educational as possible. The quota for harvested mountain lions is 26 for 5 game management units. This includes all of Custer County and parts of Pueblo, Fremont and Huerfano counties. Division of Wildlife monitor’s to make sure that 35% or less are female lions.
The night before a hunter plans to go out, he/she must call in to see if the quota has been filled. Hunters also must pass an in-depth test before they can be certified to purchase a mountain lion license. This test covers rules and regulations about lion hunting and how to accurately identify male or female lions depending on the tracks or position the lion is in before a shot is attempted. When a lion is harvested, the hunter must call to report it within 48 hours to ensure accurate quotas. The hunter must also present it to a Division of Wildlife Officer within 5 days to have a tooth pulled which is sent in for aging and a seal is placed on the hide. This seal stays on the cat until it is tanned.
Mountain lions highest mortality rate is from other lions. A tom (male lion) will kill juveniles and kittens. Harvesting adult male lions is important to ensure they have a chance to survive. There are no other natural predators for mountain lions. In California Mountain Lion hunting was outlawed and due to overpopulation and lack of habitat, the number of lions that had to be euthanized by wildlife officials has grown significantly.
Mountain Lions can be consumed, I have eaten it once and I thought it was a pork chop (my dad neglected to tell me it was lion). By law in Colorado, all big game animals harvested must be prepared for human consumption. If for some reason the hunter does not want to eat the meat they can donate it. I spoke with John Evert, owner and guide of local outfitting business Lookin’ Up Outfitters about the challenges of mountain lion hunting in Custer County. I went to Custer County School with John. He told me that the biggest challenge that he often faces in Custer County is lions crossing into private property subdivisions which then makes them have to forfeit the hunt or go around the private land and try to pick up the track when back on public lands.
We all know that in Custer County, as well as around the world, it is important to have a balanced ecosystem. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is who is entrusted to balance this system with the critters of Colorado and they do a fine job of it. I hope that this blog has helped to educate you on the importance of mountain lion hunting in Custer County as well as other counties. Please, next time you see a picture of a legally harvested mountain lion, congratulate and thank the hunter for saving mountain lion kittens, juveniles, and many other animals as well as doing their part to balance the ecosystem. If you can’t find it in your heart to do that at least please refrain from harassing them. An overpopulation of mountain lions in Custer County could be detrimental to the folks who love to live in a mountain town. Happy hunting!! ~Brianna
For more information on how to live in mountain lion country:
Colorado Division of Wildlife: Living with Mountain Lions Part 1:
Colorado Division of Wildlife: Living with Mountain Lions Part 2:
Special thanks to:
Justin Krall, Custer County Wildlife Officer (extraordinaire)
John Evert, Lookin Up Outfitters
And long-time Custer County Resident Ole Babcock for the amazing photos