Sunrise over farm in Texas Hill Country.
Photo Courtesy of Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits
 

MOUNTAIN LIONS IN THE STATE OF TEXAS

The state information for Texas is currently being edited, in the meantime the following information is available.

TEXAS MOUNTAIN LIONS: LAW & REGULATION


Mountain Lion Law in the State of Texas

In Texas'legal code, Puma concolor is referred to by several names. Separate laws refer to the species as "mountain lion," "cougar," and "panther."

Species Status

The species is classified as a nongame species, along with all "species of vertebrate and invertebrate wildlife indigenous to Texas that are not classified as game animals, game birds, game fish, fur-bearing animals, endangered species, alligators, marine penaeid shrimp, or oysters." Other nongame species are armadillos, bobcats, coyotes, flying squirrels, frogs, ground squirrels, porcupines, prairie dogs, rabbits, and turtles.

Laws pertaining to Texas' endangered species do not apply to mountain lions. The law specifically states that its provisions do not apply to coyotes, cougars, bobcats, prairie dogs, and red foxes.

State Law

Generally, treatment of wildlife in the State of Texas is governed by the Texas Statutes - the state's collection of all the laws passed by its legislature. Since our summary below may not be completely up to date, you should be sure to review the most current law for the State of Texas.

You can check the statutes directly at a state-managed website.

These statutes are searchable. Be sure to use the names "mountain lion," "cougar," and "panther" to accomplish your searches.

You may also use Findlaw for Legal Professionals at this website.

The Legislature

The Texas Legislature is the state's bicameral legislature. The lower chamber - the House of Representatives - is made up of 150 members who serve 2-year terms. The Republican Party has controlled the Texas House of Representatives since 2003. The upper chamber - the Senate - consists of 31 members who serve 4-year terms. The Republican Party has controlled the Texas State Senate since 1997. In order to help you contact your state legislators, the Texas House of Representatives maintains this website and the Texas State Senate maintains this website.

State law requires the Texas Legislature to meet at noon on the second Tuesday in January of each odd-numbered year. There do not appear to be provisions for sessions in even-numbered years. The Texas Constitution states that regular sessions may not last longer 140 days. The governor may call special legislative sessions, which are limited to 30 days.

State Regulation

Texas' wildlife regulations can be found in the Texas Administrative Code. The regulations are set by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is a nine-member board appointed by the governor and approved by the Texas State Senate. Texas law states that commissioners and their spouses may not be "registered, certified, or licensed by a regulatory agency in the field of conservation, outdoor recreation, or commercial fishing, unless the license is a noncommercial hunting or fishing license or a license issued under Subchapter D, Chapter 43." Commissioners also may not be employed by, manage, or own more than 10% interest in a business that receives money from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. When appointing commissioners, the governor must "attempt to include persons with expertise in diverse fields, including fields such as historic preservation, conservation, and outdoor recreation." Commissioners serve staggered 6-year terms with three members' terms expiring every two years. The commission's tasks include setting the state's parks and wildlife regulations, proposing a budget for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and appointing the department's director.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is the state's executive branch agency for overseeing state parks, managing wildlife, and enforcing the state's wildlife laws and regulations. The TPWD's policies are written by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, which also appoints the department's director. The department has a number of employees who are commissioned peace officers for the enforcement of wildlife laws.

Management Plan

Texas does not appear to have a mountain lion management plan.

Hunting Law

Hunting of mountain lions is allowed in the State of Texas. Being classified as a nongame species does not mean that mountain lions may not be hunted but rather that Texas does not regulate mountain lion hunting. The state does not limit the areas in which mountain lions may be hunted, limit the numbers that may be killed, or set any season dates. Mountain lions of any sex and age may be killed in Texas, and hunters do not appear to be required to report the killing of a mountain lion. Mountain lions may even be hunted at night because the state's night hunting law does not apply to nongame animals. The state does, however, require mountain lion hunters to posses a resident hunting license.

Public Safety Law

Texas does not appear to have a law stating an individual's rights in the event of a mountain lion attack.

Depredation Law

Since there are no regulations regarding the killing of mountain lions in Texas - other than possessing a resident hunting license - any resident farmer may immediately kill a depredating mountain lion provided he or she possesses a valid hunting license.

State law explicitly sanctions the killing of mountain lions in order to protect livestock. Texas law states, "The state shall cooperate through The Texas A&M University System with the appropriate federal officers and agencies in controlling … mountain lions … to protect livestock, food and feed supplies, crops, and ranges." State law also allows the Commissioners Court of Aransas, Bee, Refugio, or San Patricio County to pay bounties for the destruction of mountain lions in order to protect livestock and poultry. Mountain lion bounties may be a maximum of $5 per lion.

Texas issues depredation permits, but these permits are only necessary in cases of depredation by protected wildlife. Mountain lions are not protected wildlife in the State of Texas.

USDA Wildlife Services

The State of Texas contracts with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services to kill mountain lions that may be threatening the survival of other animals throughout the state. The USDA publishes summaries of its yearly wildlife control programs here here but does not appear to specify whether the lions were killed to protect livestock, game species, or both. PDR G reports the numbers of mountain lions and other species killed.

Trapping

Mountain lions may be trapped for fur in Texas. Since mountain lions are a nongame species, there are no regulations regarding how lions may be pursued.

Poaching

Since mountain lions are a nongame species with no closed seasons, bag limits, or restrictions on the age or sex of lions that may be killed, Texas' poaching laws do not apply to mountain lions.

Road Mortalities

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

Captivity

Texas law regulates the keeping of mountain lions as pets. A mountain lion may be kept as a pet in Texas unless it has been prohibited by the local county government. An individual wishing to keep a mountain lion must register the lion with the local animal control office or county sheriff if the area does not have an animal control office. The application for a certificate of registration must contain a complete identification of each mountain lion, including species, sex, age, if known, and any distinguishing marks or coloration that would aid in the identification of the animal; a color photograph of each lion taken within the last 30 days; the exact location where each lion is to be kept; a photograph and description of each lion's enclosure; proof of liability insurance, which must cover at least $100,000 in damages; and any other information requested by the registration agency. The agency may charge an application fee of up to $50 per animal and $500 per person registering animals. The lion's cage must comply with standards laid out in the Animal Welfare Act. The lion's owner must keep a written log for each mountain lion documenting the lion's veterinary care. Each log must identify the lion, note the date of treatment, describe the treatment, and list the name of the attending veterinarian. The mountain lion's owner must allow the registration agency to inspect his or her premises at any reasonable time.

No permit is required No permit is required to rehabilitate mountain lions in Texas because the species is classified as nongame. Also, Texas regulations ) state that no permit is required to keep mountain lions for scientific, educational, and zoological purposes because lions are a nongame species. Since no permit is required, those who work exclusively with mountain lions are not required to submit annual reports to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Research

Texas does not require a permit to conduct scientific research involving mountain lions because lions are classified as a nongame species. Since researchers do not need a permit to study mountain lions, they are not required to submit any reports to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Relationship of Mountain Lions to Native Prey

While historic native prey for mountain lions, competition with sport hunters for game species has led to a debate over lethally removing mountain lions to increase prey populations. Under state law, The Commissioners Court of Aransas, Bee, Refugio, or San Patricio County may offer bounties of up to $5 per lion for the destruction of mountain lions that are believed to be threatening the survival of any game species in those counties.