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Colorado wildlife agency’s past research raises questions about mountain lion hunting levels

CPW says preliminary findings of 10-year study released in 2015 “are no longer valid,” but won’t explain why

Bruce Finley, The Denver Post
A large female mountain stares down at hunters and the dogs that treed her in the Roaring Fork Valley this winter. CPW released its new mountain lion management plan.
Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Journalism

Five years ago, Colorado Parks and Wildlife scientists found that killing mountain lions at the levels agency managers allow across much of the state — including what’s now being planned for the next decade on the Western Slope — will lead to declining numbers, contrary to the goal of ensuring stability for this species.

The CPW biologists determined, from research done between 2004 and 2014 for the purpose of guiding agency decision-making, that wildlife managers cannot let hunters kill more than 12% of lions a year without triggering a decline, according to a report summarizing results and preliminary analysis.

But in proposing a hunting rate of up to 15% a year in western Colorado, state wildlife officials appear to be overriding those early findings — and not discussing why, beyond declaring the data flawed.

The numbers from the mountain lion study, conducted by CPW scientist Ken Logan, “have since changed and are no longer valid,” agency spokesman Travis Duncan said.

State officials would not elaborate, and declined to release the completed study after The Denver Post requested it under the Colorado Open Records Act. (A final report was “still being reviewed by editors of a scientific journal,” officials said, adding that peer review and publishing is slow, and that it will be at least a year before findings are released to the public.)

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