Arizona Game and Fish Commission Approves the Arizona Hunt Guidelines

For immediate release

Date: April 1, 2022

Logan Christian, Region II Conservation Advocate, Mountain Lion Foundation
916-442-2666 ext. 108

Arizona Game and Fish Commission Approves the Arizona Hunt Guidelines, Setting Up the Next Five Years of Mountain Lion Management

Phoenix, Arizona – On Friday, April 1, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted 5-0 to approve the Arizona Hunt Guidelines, establishing the next five years of hunting management for Arizona’s mountain lions and other hunted wildlife species.

The approved Hunt Guidelines came with two improvements for mountain lions, both targeted towards female lions. The Arizona Game and Fish Department will now limit female mountain lion hunting to 50% of the total mountain lion hunting limit in each unit, and count female mountain lions as adults if they show evidence of lactation, thereby counting these individuals towards their existing adult female hunting limit of 25%. Previously, the Department only counted females over three to be adult, even though many reach reproductive maturity between two and three. This was especially problematic given that that lions less than three years old are the most heavily hunted age class in Arizona.

Despite these improvements, several important recommendations were not included in the final Hunt Guidelines. “We were hopeful that the Department would prohibit hunting during times when female mountain lions are having kittens, and limit overall hunting levels to no more than 14 percent of the independent mountain lion population,” said Logan Christian, Region II Conservation Advocate for Mountain Lion Foundation. “The best available science demonstrates that those changes would prevent the majority of kitten orphaning and ensure a more stable population over the long run.”

The Department included a new positive change for black bears- to evaluate habitat conditions every three years, or after landscape-level events such as wildfire. However, they did not include a similar provision for other native carnivores impacted by changing habitat conditions. “Mountain lions need similar periodic habitat evaluations given the impact of drought and wildfire on their population,” said Christian. Additionally, the Department decided to maintain their spring bear hunt, making Arizona one of only seven states that still allow black bear hunting during this sensitive time when mothers are nursing their new cubs.

Commissioner Brake holds up a $200,000 check from Arizona Deer Association to show who “pays for conservation”

Before voting on the Hunt Guidelines, the Arizona Game and Fish Commissioners reacted to public criticism received throughout the Hunt Guidelines process. Several Commissioners posited that maintaining current hunting levels is justified since hunting provides revenue for wildlife conservation. Holding up a check from Arizona Deer Association, Commissioner Leland Brake stated, “We have a stable population because sportsmen groups are paying to support wildlife.”

Christian criticized the notion that hunting revenue makes the conservation of mountain lions and other native carnivores possible. “Hunting tags for mountain lions and other native carnivores provide a small source of revenue for the agency, and these species should be considered more than just a hunting opportunity. They hold intrinsic value and real tangible value as ecosystem engineers. They are worth far more alive than dead, and should be managed for all of us, not just hunters.”

Over the last seven months, MLF staff, volunteers and partners worked to raise awareness about mountain lion hunting management issues through media engagement, presentations and public testimony. “We were hopeful that the Department would make additional changes for Arizona’s mountain lions in line with the best available science,” said Christian. “However, we are grateful for the small improvements made, and will continue to advocate for the conservation of mountain lions and other native carnivores in Arizona.”

Colorado legislators introduce S.B. 31, a bill to protect mountain lions, bobcats and Canada lynx from hunting

For immediate release

Date: January 14, 2022

Logan Christian, Region 2 Conservation Advocate, Mountain Lion Foundation
916-442-2666 ext. 108

Colorado legislators introduce S.B. 31, a bill to protect mountain lions, bobcats and Canada lynx from hunting.

Colorado – On Thursday, January 13, Colorado legislators introduced S.B. 31, a bill that would end the hunting and trapping of mountain lions, bobcats and Canada lynx in the state of Colorado. Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis (Boulder County), Sen. Joann Ginal (Fort Collins), Rep. Monica Duran (Wheat Ridge) and Rep. Judy Amabile (Boulder) are championing the legislation.

In Colorado, hundreds of mountain lions and thousands of bobcats are killed each year. Hounds are used to chase and corner lions to be shot by a hunter, while traps are commonly used to capture bobcats and shoot them at close range. The bill would end this recreational hunting and trapping of these two species, while also protecting the Canada lynx in case it loses its protection under the Endangered Species Act in the future.

Polling data from Colorado shows that more than two-thirds of Coloradans oppose the hunting of these wild cat species. The public has long viewed the pursuit of wild cats as ‘trophy hunting,’ where the primary motivation is to capture and kill animals for bragging rights or displaying the carcass, even if the meat is consumed. In addition to public support, a broad coalition of wildlife conservation organizations are supporting S.B. 31, including Mountain Lion Foundation, Humane Society of the United States, Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote, Sierra Club Colorado, WildEarth Guardians and Boulder Bear Coalition.

Logan Christian, Region 2 Conservation Advocate for Mountain Lion Foundation, said, “We are proud to support S.B. 31 and applaud the legislators who are taking this bold effort to end the hunting and trapping of Colorado’s wild cats. Hunting disturbs the social structure of mountain lions and other wild cats, often exacerbating conflicts between these species and humans. Colorado’s wild cats already face mounting threats from highways, urban expansion and climate change. Removing hunting as an additional source of mortality will help protect the long-term persistence of these species.”

Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis from Boulder County, one of the legislators who introduced the bill, said, “We know that 72% of Colorado residents believe that our state’s beautiful mountain lions and bobcats should not be hunted as trophies, yet, hunters kill hundreds each year. Mountain lions self-regulate their population sizes and very few livestock are killed by them in Colorado. We do not need to be hunting these gorgeous animals for sport in our state.”

The bill includes exemptions for killing wild cats when necessary to protect livestock, public safety or to euthanize an injured animal.

For updates from Mountain Lion Foundation on how to support this legislation, sign up at

Mountain Lion Minutes – Why Advocate for Mountain Lions?

The Mountain Lion Minutes are a monthly blog authored by Zack Curcija, an Arizona-based volunteer with the Mountain Lion Foundation. 


Why Advocate for Mountain Lions?


Photo Credit: Sean Hoover

Mountain lion. Puma. Cougar. Catamount. Panther. The many common names that describe the cat known scientifically as Puma concolor reflect the physical prowess and adaptability of the species. Historically ranging from  northern Canada to the southern tip of Patagonia and from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, the mountain lion is the most successful large mammal in the Western Hemisphere, next to humans. In the United States, the species is now primarily confined to the Mountain West, living in areas that support deer, their chief prey. From alpine meadows, through rugged canyons, and across sunbaked deserts, the mountain lion reigns as the top carnivore throughout most of its present range.

In the rugged American West, and in a small pocket of the Florida everglades, mountain lions found refuge from the centuries of persecution that extirpated the grizzly bear and wolf throughout much of the contiguous United States. Despite losing over 60% of their range in North America since the time of European contact, the IUCN registers the mountain lion as a species of “Least Concern,” since a robust population exists in the western United States and Canada where suitable habitat is currently abundant (Nielsen et al. 2008).

So why advocate for a species if their present population is deemed stable? In short, mountain lions require human advocates for the simple fact that human mismanagement of the natural world poses the greatest threat to the long-term survival of the species. Mountain lions cannot speak for themselves, but their success demonstrates their ability to flourish if afforded sufficient protection from habitat destruction and overhunting.

Ethical questions about the natural world can be viewed through three distinct yet potentially overlapping lenses. An anthropocentric view appraises the natural world for its direct and indirect value to humans. An ecocentric view is concerned with the integrity and intrinsic value of ecosystems. A biocentric view narrows the scope of ethical consideration to the well-being of individual nonhuman animals (Halsey and White 1988). I submit that the preservation of mountain lions strikes at the intersection of all three views, that each perspective forms one part of a braid that is essential to the long-term conservation of mountain lions and other nonhuman animals. In the following paragraphs, I will introduce the ways in which each perspective informs mountain lion advocacy, topics that will be explored in greater detail in subsequent essays.

Mountain lions are sentient creatures, and their capacity to suffer should warrant them ethical consideration on the individual level. Darwin’s (1871) elegant statement that, “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind” has been substantiated in the fields of modern zoology, psychology, ethology, and others (de Waal 2016). Mountain lions are no exception, and, as mammals, they share with humans hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary history resulting in a similar physiology and nervous system.

Far from being the senseless killers of historical American lore, those who study mountain lions know them to be intelligent animals that exhibit the range of emotions and capacities of domestic cats. Like their domesticated feline cousins, mountain lions are playful, emotional, intelligent, and curious. Trail cameras and observations from the field reveal the otherwise secretive lives of wild mountain lions: a mother mountain lion purring while grooming and cuddling with her kittens, spirited kittens rambunctiously playing amongst themselves, an adult lion pushing and chasing a river cobble across a sandy beach.

Photo Credit: Jason Klassi

Though generally regarded as solitary, mountain lions exist within a network of intraspecific interactions. Female mountain lions, in particular, spend the bulk of their adult lives caring for litters of dependent offspring. Meanwhile, adult males dedicate a significant portion of their time to patrolling their territory for infiltrating males and searching for responsive females to sire litters.

Recent research is beginning to unveil the complexity of mountain lion sociology. Elbroch and colleagues (2017) recorded reciprocally altruistic food-sharing relationships between individual mountain lions in their study area, where a successful individual shares its kill with another, often unrelated, mountain lion from an adjacent or overlapping territory. Such reciprocal relationships – a prosocial feature common to humans – requires the cognitive ability to recall past encounters, to consider the future, and to mentally map the territories of friendly conspecifics. The authors suggest that this behavior may function to reduce potentially deadly intraspecific conflict, to relieve the high energetic demands and risks associated with frequent solitary hunting, and to maintain social order and breeding access between individual mountain lions.

Existing at low population densities, each individual mountain lion forms an integral component of the regional mountain lion population. With such large territorial needs, mountain lions are known as an umbrella species, because protecting sufficient habitat for them will invariably provide abundant habitat for a plethora of other species with smaller territorial requirements (Lambeck 1997; Beier 2009). For instance, the average range of an adult male mountain lion of 75-150 square miles may harbor thousands of individuals from other mammal or bird species and millions of individual insects (Shaw 2009).

As apex predators, mountain lions are ecosystem engineers that exert top-down control over the ecosystems they inhabit. Their presence in an area modulates the behavior of prey species. By keeping ungulates alert and mobile, mountain lions prevent the overconsumption of vegetation and mitigate the detrimental ecological consequences that would result, such as inhibited riparian plant recruitment, increased erosion, and changes to stream turbidity and temperature (Ripple and Beschta 2006). By disproportionately selecting aged and diseased prey species, mountain lions help direct ungulate population health (Krumm et al. 2010). Once prey is captured, the carrion produced and distributed by mountain lions supports an unprecedented variety of organisms, including numerous species of beetles, birds, and other mammals (Barry et al. 2018).

In addition to the cultural significance of such an iconic species, mountain lions offer ecosystem services that directly and indirectly benefit humans. Although industrialization allows modern humans to feel insulated from the natural world, we still ultimately rely on healthy ecosystems and the health of the components therein. Like other top carnivores, mountain lions are essential to ecosystem function, and their conservation should therefore appeal to those holding even the strongest anthropocentric view.

Though equipped with sharp teeth, claws, and incredible physical capabilities, mountain lions are far from the most dangerous animal to humans in North America. In the United States, this distinction goes to the mountain lion’s primary prey, deer. Each year, over 1.2 million vehicular collisions with deer injure 28,000 and kill over 200 people in the US. These accidents are most frequent in the East, where mountain lions and wolves are absent, and deer have consequently reached unnaturally high densities. Since mountain lions prevent deer overpopulation and modulate deer behavior, the ecosystem services provided by mountain lions offer compelling arguments to encourage their recolonization of their former range, possibly saving hundreds of human lives and billions of dollars each year (Gilbert et al. 2016). In addition to reducing vehicular collisions with deer, mountain lions contribute to curbing the spread of diseases for which deer are vectors, such as Lyme disease and chronic wasting disease (Krumm et al. 2010; Elbroch 2020).

As sentient animals that play an integral role in the ecosystems they inhabit, and upon which humans ultimately depend, mountain lions are worthy of protection. Clairvoyance is not required to foresee the impending threats mountain lions will face in the western US in the coming decades. We need only to identify the factors that led to the extirpation to their eastern cousins a century ago, and the recent extinction of their more distant feline cousins across the globe. Though mountain lions are notoriously cryptic in their habits, decades of rigorous research has clearly established the biological needs of the species. Mountain lions, like other large cats, require large, continuous tracks of biologically productive land with connectivity between subpopulations to maintain genetic diversity. Without adequate protected space, viable populations of mountain lions cannot survive, irrespective of how the species is managed by game agencies.

While levels of sport hunting in some US states exceed historic levels of bounty hunting, the greatest long-term threat to mountain lions is the loss, fragmentation, and degradation of habitat (Shaw 1989). As the human population and attendant industrialization increases in the American West, so too does the pressure placed on mountain lions. The trends of diminishing habitat, an exploding human population, and increasing hunting thresholds in the West are – without intervention – destined to replicate the tragedy of the eastern cougar.

The chronicles of the eastern and western mountain lion populations should not be viewed as distinct, but as a continuous story of the consequences of increasing human population densities and habitat degradation across the continental US. The current plight of threatened subpopulations within the American West offers an alarming preview of a prospective future for mountain lions across their current range. Even in parts of California, where sport hunting is prohibited, immense freeways fragment small islands of protected land thereby genetically isolating small populations of mountain lions. These closed populations are beginning to manifest the same deleterious recessive genetic traits observed in endangered Florida panthers, and both populations – through secure from hunting – suffer high rates of mortality from vehicular collisions (Beier 1993; USFWS 2018; NPS 2020).

Despite their resiliency, there is nothing intrinsic about mountain lions in the West that precludes them from meeting the same fate as their extirpated eastern cousins. Only our game and land management strategies can ensure the long-term viability of mountain lion populations. The current “Least Concern” status of mountain lions should not encourage complacency, but should instead motivate proactivity to anticipate and address impending threats to the species. The present circumstances are not fixed, and only represent a slice of time amid marked demographic changes to the western US. In a sense, the resiliency of the mountain lion has afforded humans the luxury of applying what we have learned from the recent regional extirpation of eastern mountain lions to inform the future management of the species across their present range, an option lost to the numerous taxa of wild cats that went extinct within the last two centuries. From our lofty position as the dominant species on the planet, we have the knowledge, the ability, and the duty to ensure that the magnificent mountain lion thrives in our wild places in perpetuity.


References Cited:

Barry, M., Elbroch, M., Aiello-Lammens, E., Sarno, R., Seeyle, L., Kusler, A., Quigley,  H., Grigione, M. (2018) Pumas as ecosystem engineers: ungulate carcasses support beetle assemblages in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Oecologia 189577–586. doi: 10.1007/s00442-018-4315-z

Beier, P. (1993) Determining Minimum Habitat Areas and Habitat Corridors for Cougars. Conservation Biology 7(1), 94-108. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1993.07010094.x. (2009) A Focal Species for Conservation Planning. In M. Hornocker & S. Negri (Eds),  Cougar: Conservation and Ecology (p. 177-189). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Darwin, C.R. (1871) The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. United Kingdom: John Murray. De Waal, Frans (2017) Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? New York: W. Norton & Company.

Elbroch, M. (2020) The Cougar Conundrum: Sharing the World with a Successful Predator.  Washington, DC: Island Press.

Elbroch, L.M., Levy, M., Lubell, M., Quigley, H., and Caragiulo, A. (2017) Adaptive social strategies in a solitary carnivore. Science Advances 3(10). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1701218.

Gilbert, S., Sivy, K., Pozzanghera, C., DuBour, A., Overduijn, K., Smith, M., Zhou, J., Little, J., Prugh, L. (2016) Socioeconomic Benefits of Large Carnivore Recolonization Through Reduced Wildlife‐Vehicle Collisions. Conservation Letters 10(4), 431-439.

Halsey, M. and White, R. (1998) Crime, Ecophilosophy and Environmental Harm. Theoretical Criminology 2(3), 345-371. doi:10.1177/1362480698002003003

Krumm, C., Conner, M., Thompson Hobbs, N., Hunter, D., and Miller, M. (2010) Mountain lions prey selectively on prion-infected mule deer. Biology Letters 6, 209-211. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0742.

Lambeck, R.J. (1997), Focal Species: A Multi-Species Umbrella for Nature Conservation. Conservation Biology, 11: 849-856.

National Park Service (2020) NPS Biologists Report First Abnormalities Linked to Inbreeding Depression in Mountain Lions (9/9/2020). Retrieved October 7, 2021, from

Nielsen, C., Thompson, D., Kelly, M. & Lopez-Gonzalez, C.A. (2015) Puma concolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: e.T18868A97216466.

Ripple, W. and Beschta, R. (2006) Linking a cougar decline, trophic cascade, and catastrophic regime shift in Zion National Park. Biological Conservation 133(4), 397-408. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.07.002.

Shaw, H. (1989) Soul Among Lions: The Cougar as Peaceful Adversary. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. (2009) The Emerging Cougar Chronicle. In M. Hornocker & S. Negri (Eds), Cougar: Conservation and Ecology (p. 17-26). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service (2018) Florida panther (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2021, from

Action Required! Stop the South Dakota Petition to Expand Hound Hunting and Protect Mountain Lions from Trophy Hunting


At the September 2021 meeting, the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commission voted to adopt the recommended changes to the mountain lion hunt for the 2021 – 2023 seasons. They also voted to adopt change rules to allow the use of dogs to hunt mountain lion to include all property owned by the Department of Game, Fish and Parks and also the land commonly known as Grasslands managed by the Forest Service.

The approved recommendations are as follows:

Black Hills:

  • December 26, 2021 – April 30, 2022
  • December 26, 2022 – April 30, 2023

Prairie: Year-round


  • Residents: Unlimited licenses

Harvest Limit:  Black Hills Fire Protection District: 60 mountain lions or 40 female mountain lions (includes Custer State Park)

We would like to thank everyone who took the time to submit comments to the SDGFP Commission. We will continue to fight to protect mountain lions in South Dakota and across America!

Action Required! Stop the South Dakota Petition to Expand Hound Hunting and Protect Mountain Lions from Trophy Hunting

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has received a petition from the South Dakota Houndsmen Association to expand hound hunting across the state to include any public land, unless the public land specifically prohibits such, for the use of dogs (hounds) to hunt mountain lions when a pursuit originates on private land.

Fewer than 300 mature-age mountain lions are thought to reside in South Dakota and they must be protected. It is imperative that you let Game, Fish and Parks know that you are opposed to this petition that would expand hound hunting of mountain lions throughout the state!

In addition to harming the mountain lion population, higher levels of trophy hunting can result in increased conflicts with humans, pets and livestock. In areas with low to no trophy hunting of wild cats, conflicts are quite rare compared to areas with higher trophy hunting.

Please submit a comment to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission by 11:59 PM on August 28th and tell them to oppose the South Dakota Houndsmen Association’s petition to expand hound hunting of mountain lions in South Dakota and to protect mountain lions from trophy hunting.

To submit your comment, select “Mountain Lion Season Restrictions” to comment on the petition and “Mountain Lion Hunting Seasons” to comment on SDGFP’s hunt recommendations. These are found under “Position Comment.”

Thank you for speaking up for South Dakota’s mountain lions!