Lush river Inlet to Payette Lake in Idaho at sunrise.
  Photo Courtesy of:
  Charles Knowles / The Knowles Gallery
Photo of landsacape.


Say no to long seasons and high quotas.

In Idaho, mountain lions were hunted without limit from the time of European settlement until the 1970s. There was a bounty for mountain lions from 1915 until as recent as 1958, and as populations dropped, IDFG realized that they would need to intervene if they wanted to keep their population viable. In 1972, the state legislature reclassified mountain lions as a "big game species," thereby restricting mountain lion hunting to regulated seasons set by IDFG. The following year a mandatory check of sport hunted mountain lions was initiated. In 1975, a hunting tag was required for the first time on mountain lions.

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  • The status of Puma concolor in Idaho.

  • State law and regulations affecting cougars.

  • The history of cougars in Idaho.

  • Ecosystems and habitat in Idaho.

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  • Our library of media, research and reports.

  • How you can take action to help!

Idaho Cougar Laws and Regulations

Idaho's legal code, Puma concolor is generally referred to as "mountain lion."

Species Status

The species is classified as big game, along with black bear, California bighorn sheep, elk, gray wolves, grizzly bear, moose, mountain goat, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and white-tailed deer. The regulation pertaining to Idaho's threatened and endangered species apply to mountain lions because the regulation applies to all species that are native to Idaho.

State Law

Generally, treatment of wildlife in the State of Idaho is governed by the Idaho Statutes — the state's collection of laws passed by its legislature. Wildlife regulations can be found in the Idaho Administrative Code — the collection of all Idaho's department rules and regulations. Since our summary may not be completely up to date, be sure to check the latest laws and regulations for the State of Idaho.

The Legislature

The Idaho state legislature is a part-time, bicameral legislature. The lower chamber — the House of Representatives — is made up of 70 members who serve 2-year terms. The Republican Party has controlled the Idaho House of Representatives since the 1950s. The upper chamber — the Senate — consists of 35 members serving 2-year terms. The Republican Party has controlled the Idaho Senate since at least 1992. If you do not know in which legislative district you live, the state maintains this website to help you find your district. If you already know in which legislative district you live, you may contact your legislator by district, name, or their committee assignments.

Idaho law states that regular sessions of the legislature convene at 12:00 on the Monday closest to or on the 9th of January. The Idaho Constitution also gives the governor the power to call special sessions of the legislature. Neither the Idaho Statutes nor the Idaho Constitution specify how long legislative sessions may last, but regular sessions usually last into March.

State Regulation

Idaho's Department of Fish and Game regulations generally govern the state's treatment of wildlife. The regulations are set by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and are part of the Idaho Administrative Code .

Idaho Fish and Game Commission

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is a 7-member board whose members are appointed by the governor and approved by the Idaho Senate. The commissioners serve staggered 4-year terms. No more than four commissioners may be from the same political party. Commissioners must be residents of the region they are appointed to represent and must be knowledgeable about wildlife conservation and restoration. The commission is responsible for the supervision of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game; the establishment of regulations concerning fishing, hunting, trapping and the management of wildlife; the approval of the department's budget proposal to be submitted to the state legislature; and the holding of public hearings to address the state's wildlife management.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) is an agency within the Idaho executive branch. The department enforces the regulations of and is overseen by the Idaho Game and Fish Commission.

Management Plan

Idaho's latest plans for mountain lion management appear to be the black bear and mountain lion sections of 2014's Predation Management Plan for the Middle Fork Elk Zone and the 2011 revision of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Predation Management Plan For the Lolo and Selway Elk Zones. The plans were prepared by the IDFG in accordance with Idaho Fish and Game Commission policy. Neither plan states when it will be revisited.

Idaho's latest management plan specific to mountain lions appears to be the report published in 2002. The plan was prepared by the IDFG, approved by the department's director, and adopted by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. The plan aimed to "[chart] the course for the Department of Fish and Game during 2002 - 2010 to manage Idaho's mountain lion populations and to provide recreational opportunity, maintain healthy lion populations, and provide for human use and products." The report states that it was prepared as part of the IDFG's statutory responsibility to conserve, protect, perpetuate and manage all wildlife within the state. Idaho does not appear to have prepared another mountain lion-specific plan since this plan's time-frame ended.

Hunting Law

Hunting of mountain lions is allowed in the State of Idaho. The regulations governing "recreational" hunting of mountain lions specify 99 game management units. Mountain lion hunting season generally runs from August 30 to March 31. Hound hunting is allowed. Most management units prohibit the use of dogs during October and November.

Idaho allows the hunting of mountain lions with firearms weighing less than 16 pounds that are not fully automatic, shotguns using shot larger than double-aught (#00) buck, rimfire firearms, muzzleloading rifles or muskets that are less than .45 caliber, bows that fire one arrow at a time, crossbows, and electronic calls.

Some management units have female quotas. After the female quota is reached, mountain lion hunting continues for the rest of the season but only males may be killed. The Fish and Game Commission sets the female quotas based on biologists' decisions on population trends. Idaho prohibits the killing of spotted kittens and females accompanied by kittens.

Public Safety Law

Idaho does not appear to have a law or regulation governing what a person may do in the event of a mountain lion attack.

Depredation Law

Depredation law in Idaho specifies that landowners are to report any mountain lion that has done damage to or is damaging livestock to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA will investigate the complaint within 72 hours. The law also states that the IDFG director will consult with the appropriate land management agencies before relocating any mountain lion. The law does not say if the landowner may or may not kill the depredating lion. Owners of domestic animals are required to take "all reasonable steps" to protect their pets or livestock. There is a government-funded compensation program for losses of domestic animals to mountain lions.


Mountain lions may not be trapped for fur in Idaho. The regulations governing trapping in Idaho specify that gray wolves are the only big game species that may be trapped. Any non-target species caught in a trap must be released immediately. If a trap kills a non-target species, the trapper must take possession for the carcass and has 72 hours to arrange to surrender the carcass to the IDFG.


Poaching law in the State of Idaho provides some protection of mountain lions in law, but only as a deterrent. It is rare for penalties to be sufficiently harsh to keep poachers from poaching again. For each mountain lion killed or possessed illegally, the poacher must reimburse the state $400. The fine is doubled if the poacher commits the same offense again within 12 months. If a poacher kills any combination of animals with a reimbursement value greater than $1,000 within a 12-month period, he/she is guilty of a felony. Anyone guilty of a felony in Idaho can be punished with up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $50,000. Any poacher who is convicted of or pleads guilty to three or more felony offenses within a 5-year period may have his/her fishing, hunting, or trapping privileges revoked for life. For each conviction, Idaho also imposes a $7.50 fine to be deposited in the state's search and rescue account.

Road Mortalities

The Idaho Transportation Department does not keep records of mountain lions killed on the State's roads.

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Environmental Scorecard

League of Conservation Voters

The League of Conservation Voters' scorecard considers the State Legislature's environmental records since 1971. It quantifies the environmental votes of each individual legislator — an important first step in considering accountability — and provides critical qualitative assessments as well. The scorecard will help you to know your legislator before you write a letter in support of cougars.

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Becoming a Mountain Lion Activist

There are lots of opportunities to take action!

Are you new to mountain lion activism? You want to change your local environment to improve it for cougars... but you don't know how to start. You may feel like you are all alone... but it takes just one person to change the attitudes and lifestyles of hundreds of others. You don't need to belong to a group. It doesn't take special skills or superhuman abilities. You just need to care enough about cougars to want to help them survive. You've already done the hard part, now let us help you with the next step.

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Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

Commonly abbreviated as: IFGC

Ed Schriever, Director

Main Office:
600 S. Walnut
Boise, ID 83712
(505) 476-8000

Large Carnivore Staff Biologist

Jim Hayden

Please write to the director and express your concern for lions in Idaho.

Thank the agency when they take steps to protect our state's cougars. When they fall short of expectations, politely ask for policy reform and more officer training.


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