Approximately one-third of New Mexico is suitable lion habitat. The rest of the state lacks critical resources to house a stable breeding population of resident lions, but may be used for dispersal between core habitat regions. New Mexico is believed to have a population of roughly 2,500 lions.
Keep in mind that although lions are physically capable of living in certain places (based on geographical, vegetative and prey species characteristics), it does not mean they necessarily do. Fragmentation, sport hunting practices, and intolerant communities can wipe out lions from any area. For more data on habitat-usage, check out our Science tab.
The state of New Mexico encompasses 121,356 square miles of land. According to the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDGF), mountain lions "generally inhabit the rougher country in New Mexico avoiding the low elevation desert areas and eastern plains. They do however occur in these areas in conjunction with pockets of mule deer and areas of topographic diversity."
In 2008, NMDGF used a Mountain Lion Population Density Model based on a GIS-mapped habitat study funded by the conservation organization, Animal Protection of New Mexico. This particular model divided 92 percent of the state into four distinct mountain lion habitat categories: Core, Minimum Patch, Dispersal, and Poor / Marginal; and assigned population density ranges for each category.
Using this same lion population density model, MLF estimates that New Mexico currently has approximately 2,550 mountain lions distributed accordingly:
Apparently, officials at NMDGF felt that the population estimates derived from the 2008 model were too low. Less than two-years later, NMDGF is now using a radically different mountain lion population density model which seems to be developed from an unpublished Master's Thesis. As a result, New Mexico appears to have lost 39,448 square miles of mountain lion habitat, while gaining an additional 1,930 adult mountain lions. MLF can only assume that NMDGF's use of the new 2010 lion population density model is based more on political concerns rather than biological evidence, for the express purpose of justifying the increased mountain lion hunting quotas since 2010.