Tuolumne Lake, California. Mountain lake at sunrise.  Bright green grasses, rocky hills, reflection.
Text:  History.

A Timeline of Bounty and Sport Hunting of Mountain Lions in the U.S.

The status of mountain lions is very much in question. Every day, our remaining lions are threatened by human population growth, poaching, hunting, development, pollution, and habitat loss. The true health of populations in the United States, Mexico, Central and South America is virtually unknown. Listed below is a brief timeline of mankind's lethal interaction with the species within the continental United States.


  •   Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca observes a mountain lion in Florida, becoming perhaps the first European in North America to see one.


  •     Connecticut offers a bounty of twenty shillings apiece for the killing of catamounts.


  •     During the early mission period Jesuit priests in Baja California offer a bounty of one bull to Native Americans for every mountain lion killed.


  •     Massachusetts enacts a bounty on mountain lions.


  •     Pennsylvania enacts a bounty on mountain lions.


  •     The Oregon Territory Legislature classifies cougars as a "predator" and enacts a bounty. For the next ninety years, an annual bounty on 200 or more cougars was not uncommon.


  •     The last known mountain lion in Ohio is killed.


  • Due to extermination by humans, mountain lion are now considered as rare in the eastern two-thirds of the continent.
  •     The last documented report of a wild mountain lion in Indiana occurs sometime between 1850 and 1865.


  •   First account of mountain lions being killed by Americans in southwestern Oklahoma.


  •     Last known mountain lion killed in Illinois.


  •     The last known catamount in Massachusetts is reported killed.


  •     Last known mountain lion in Iowa is killed.


  • *    Alexander Crowell kills the last known catamount in Vermont.
  •     Colorado classifies mountain lions as a "predator" with a bounty offered for every mountain lion killed.


  •   The Utah Territorial Legislature classifies mountain lions as an "obnoxious animal."


  •    Last known mountain lion in Nebraska is killed.


  •     The last mountain lion in Pennsylvania is reported killed.


  •     The Utah Territorial Legislature establishes a bounty system on mountain lions.


  •    The same year South Dakota becomes a state, its legislature enacts a bounty on mountain lions.


  • Except for a small population in Florida, mountain lions are effectively extirpated in states east of the Mississippi River.


  •     Montana classifies mountain lions as a "bountied predator".


  •     The last verified mountain lion in Kansas is killed in Ellis County.


  •     Washington enacts a bounty on cougars.
  •       Mountain lions are extirpated from South Dakota. The state will not be recolonized with a breeding pair from Wyoming until the early 1970s.


  •     California classifies mountain lions as a "bountied predator."


  • *    Mountain lions are considered extirpated in Wisconsin (the Badger State).
  •     The last known catamount in New York is reported killed.


  •   Oregon sets its cougar bounty at $10.


  •     Idaho enacts a bounty on mountain lions.


  •   Idaho initiates a cooperative eradication program with the Federal Government and private livestock associations to employ hunters to kill mountain lions.


  •   A Federal control program, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is initiated in Utah to protect livestock by killing mountain lions.


  •   The Territorial Legislature of Arizona classifies mountain lions as a "undesirable predator." By 1947, 2,400 mountain lions will have been killed.


  •     Last known mountain lion in Missouri is killed.


  •     Colorado enacts a bounty on mountain lions.


  • Congress passes the Animal Damage Control Act, giving the Secretary of Agriculture broad authority to expand "the destruction of mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, prairie dogs, gophers, ground squirrels, jackrabbits, and other animals injurious to agriculture, horticulture, forestry, husbandry, game, or domestic animals, or that carried disease."


  •   Utah discontinues the issuance of bounties on mountain lions for the next 12-years.


  •     The last known mountain lion in Maine is reported killed.


  •   Oregon increases the bounty paid for cougars from $10 to $50.


  •   Between 1915 and 1941, hunters employed cooperatively by the State, livestock associations, and the Federal Government killed 251 mountain lions in Idaho as part of a program to protect livestock in that state. The number of mountain lions killed by private individuals is not known.


  •     Utah reestablishes its bounty program on mountain lions.


  •   Idaho offers a $50 bounty for every mountain lion killed and turned into the State. Over the next 14 years an annual average of 80 mountain lions were turned in for payment.


  •     Since 1918, 2,400 mountain lions have been killed as "undesirable predators." In an effort to accelerate the extirpation of the species, Arizona enacts a bounty on mountain lions varying from $50 to $100 per lion. By 1969, an additional 5,400 cougars will have been killed and turned in for the bounty.


  •   Florida classifies panthers as "game animals."


  •   Idaho's 1953-54 winter period yielded that state's highest recorded bounty harvest of 144 mountain lions.


  •   Idaho reduces the bounty paid on mountain lions to $25.


  •   Florida passes legislation to protect its panther population.
  •   The Idaho State Legislature stops its lion bounty program and allows the unregulated hunting of mountain lions. Since 1918 (first year records are available) an incomplete record shows that at least 1,479 mountain lions were killed and turned in for the bounty.


  •   Utah ends its bounty program on mountain lions. Since 1913 (first year records are available) 3,895 mountain lions were killed and turned in for the bounty.


  • *  It is estimated that Oregon's cougar population has dropped to only 200 animals.
  •   While still listed as an official program, Washington stops offering a bounty on cougars.


  •   The last 28 cougars are turned in for the bounty in Oregon before the state discontinues that program for lack of cougars. Since 1918 (first year records are available) 6,762 cougars were killed and turned in for the bounty.


  •   Washington officially rescinds its cougar bounty program. Since 1936 (first date records available) 3,143 cougars were killed and turned in for the bounty.


  •   Montana ends its bounty program on mountain lions and reclassifies them as "predator" with no bounty offered. During the bounty program's 61-year history, at least 1,897 mountain lions were reported killed and turned in to government agents for the reward.
  •   California ends its bounty program on mountain lions and reclassifies them as a "non-protected mammal." During its 57-year history, California's mountain lion bounty program accounted for a record 12,461 mountain lions killed and turned in for the bounty. (For more information see California Mountain Lion Bounty Timeline)


  •   Colorado discontinues its mountain lion bounty program and reclassifies the animal as a "big game species." Between 1917 (the first year records are available) and 1965, 1,754 mountain lions were killed and turned in to government agents for a reward.
  •   Nevada reclassifies mountain lions as a "game animal." Unlike most western states, Nevada never placed a statewide bounty on mountain lions. They were considered "unprotected predators" until their classification as game animals.


  •   Washington reclassifies cougars as a "game animal."
  •   South Dakota discontinues its bounty program on mountain lions. Since 1906 only two mountain lions have been reported as killed in South Dakota (1931 & 1959).

  • Congress passes the Endangered Species Preservation Act


  •   Oregon reclassifies cougars as "game animal."
  •   The Florida Panther is placed on the State Endangered Species List
  •   Utah reclassifies mountain lions as a "game animal" and hunting regulations were established that allowed the taking of any number of mountain lions at any time. At the time, residents did not need a permit to hunt mountain lions.


  •   California reclassifies mountain lions as a "game mammal." This action was undertaken to control supposed livestock damage and to "manage" mountain lions through regulated hunting.
  • Thought to be extinct in Arkansas, an adult mountain lion is killed approximately 6 miles east of Hamburg, in Ashley County.


  •   Arizona reclassifies mountain lions as "big game animals," but maintains its bounty law as a non-funded program until its repeal in 1990.
  • California's first mountain lion hunting season occurs with 35 mountain lions reported killed.
  • Between 1937 and 1970, federal employees of Animal Damage Control (ADC), derisively branded "All Dead Critters" by some of their critics, are credited with killing 7,255 cougars.


  •   New Mexico reclassifies mountain lions as a "game mammal."
  •   Montana reclassifies mountain lions as a "game animal" and establishes a regulated hunting season.
  •   California holds its second mountain lion hunting season with 83 mountain lions reported killed.
  •   The California legislature passes new legislation, signed by then governor, Ronald Reagan which placed a moratorium on the sport hunting of mountain lions. The lion hunting moratorium, is slated to start on March 1, 1972.
  • *  Arizona reclassifies mountain lions as a "big game animal."

  •   Idaho ends the unregulated hunting of mountain lions. During its 13 year run, an annual average of 142 mountain lions was reported killed in the state for recreational purposes. An estimated 303 mountain lions were harvested during the final 1971-72 hunting season.


  •   Claiming that research conducted by Dr. Maurice Hornocker had added significantly to their knowledge, mountain lions in Idaho are reclassified as a "Big Game Species" and a "regulated" hunting season is established.



  • Congress passes the Federal Endangered Species Act, designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and development untendered by adequate concern and conservation."
  • Eastern cougars (felis concolor couguar) are listed as a federally endangered subspecies under the Endangered Species Act on June 4, 1973.
  •   Wyoming reclassifies mountain lions as a "trophy game animal."


  •   South Dakota lists mountain lions as a "state threatened species."


  •   California's lion hunting moratorium, started on March 1, 1972, is discontinued when it is unable to achieve its annual reauthorization in the state legislature. At this time, the regulated hunting of mountain lions in California was once again authorized. Despite this authorization, political pressure from individual citizens and conservation organizations such as the Mountain Lion Foundation kept lions from being hunted for sport in California until the passage of Proposition 117, and the permanent banning of sport hunting of mountain lions occurred in 1990.

  • Since the recommendation of a 1970 presidential commission that "the predator policies should be eliminated or reduced on public lands," the role of the Animal Damage Control had been greatly reduced. Finally, western members of Congress, under the prodding of disgruntled stockmen, succeeded in getting ADC transferred from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the program rebounded.


  •   A disgruntled Arizona state wildlife employee takes a grisly photograph of 11 severed mountain lion heads stacked under a tree. The heads represented only one-fourth of the 44 lions killed in Arizona in 1989 by professional hunters working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's notorious Animal Damage Control (ADC) program. Several major national magazines and newspapers carried the photograph when it was released to the public the following year.


  •   A coalition of conservation organizations, led by the Mountain Lion Foundation, placed Proposition 117--the Mountain Lion Initiative on the statewide ballot. This proposition, the first to have been placed solely with signatures collected by volunteers in California, passed on June 5, 1990 with 52.42 percent of the vote. Officially known as the California Wildlife Protection Act, Proposition 117 reclassified mountain lions in California as a "specially protected mammal," permanently banned the sport hunting of lions in the state, and allocated $30 million to be spent annually for 30 years on the acquisition of critical habitat for mountain lions, deer, oak woodlands, endangered species, riparian habitat, and other wildlife.

  •   Though reclassified as a "big game animals" in 1970, Arizona's mountain lion bounty law remained on the books as a non-funded program until its repeal in 1990. During the 51 years Arizona's mountain lion bounty was in effect, 7,723 mountain lions were killed and turned in to the government for the bounty, and more than a third-of-a-million dollars ($386,150) was paid in an attempt to eliminate mountain lions from the state.


  • *  Oregon voters approved Measure 18, which partially banned the use of hounds to hunt cougars. For three years, sport hunting related cougar mortalities declined dramatically statewide. To offset these hunting declines, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife lengthened the hunting season to 10 months (in some areas year-round), significantly reduced the cost of a hunting tag, increased hunting quotas, increased the bag limit in one hunt zone to two animals per year, and issued unlimited hunting tags - more than 32,000 tags were sold in 2002. As a result, sport hunting related cougar mortalities increased to record highs despite the ban on using hounds.

  •   First verified sighting of a mountain lion in Missouri since their extirpation in 1927.


  •   With a 63 percent majority vote, Washington voters passed the citizen-placed statewide ballot initiative, I-655, which partially banned the use of hounds while hunting cougars. It was  generally thought that I-655 would significantly reduce the number of mountain lions killed in Washington. However following its passage, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife compensated for an expected drop in mountain lion mortalities by replacing the permit-only season with a general season, lengthening the hunting season from six weeks to 7 1/2 months, increasing the bag limit to two lions per year, and reducing the price of mountain lion tags. As a result, the number of mountain lion tags sold has increased from 1,000 in 1997 to over 58,000 in 2008.
  •   Backed by special interest groups such as the Safari Club, Proposition 197 is placed by the legislature on the California November ballot in an attempt to repeal the ban on hunting mountain lions in California for sport. Proposition 197 was overwhelmingly rejected by 58.12 percent of California's voters.
  •   The Utah Legislature reduces the crime of poaching a mountain lion from a felony to a misdemeanor.


  •   Seeing a steady increase in mortality numbers since classifying mountain lions as a "Big Game Species" and establishing a "regulated" hunting season in 1972, Idaho experiences a peak in the annual number of mountain lions killed for recreational purposes with 798. Despite "liberalizing" future lion hunting seasons, the annual number of mountain lions killed in Idaho has continually declined since the 1997 hunting season.


  •   South Dakota repeals the special hunting prohibition (SDCL 41-8-2-1) on mountain lions, wolves, and black bears.


  •   South Dakota removes mountain lions from the state's threatened species list and reclassifies them as a "big game animal."


  •   North Dakota's first mountain lion hunting season opened on September 2, 2005. The season closed early, five months later, on January 15, 2006 when a 4 to 6 month old, 39-lb. female was reported killed in McKenzie County. The mortality total for this first hunt was 5 mountain lions.
  •   The Mountain Lion Foundation files an unsuccessful lawsuit against the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department in an attempt to block the start of South Dakota's first mountain lion hunting season.
  •   South Dakota's first mountain lion hunting season opened on Saturday, October 1, 2005. The season closed early, fifteen days later, when the quota was reached for female deaths. In all, 13 lions were harvested - six males and seven females. At the time, the "official" mountain lion population estimate for South Dakota was 165 animals.


  •   The first verified sighting of mountain lions in Wisconsin since their extirpation in 1908.
  •   Chicago Police kill the first wild cougar seen in Illinois since 1855.


  •   On December 14, 2009, while hunting deer, Raymond Goebels Jr., from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, came across and killed the first verified mountain lion to be found in Iowa since the species was extirpated in 1867. Declaring "It was going to die anyway," Mr. Goebels' was unapologetic for his actions. Since lions are not officially recognized as even existing in Iowa there was no law at the time preventing the killing.


  •   In May, 2010 Indiana Department of Natural Resources' motion-activated cameras officially record the first verified mountain lion in the state since they were extirpated sometime between 1850 and 1865.
  •   After confirmation of the first mountain lion to be seen in Kansas since their extirpation in 1904, Representative Mitch Holmes, a Republican from west-central Kansas cattle country, introduces a bill to allow people to hunt mountain lions in Kansas without a license. The legislation fails to pass.
  •   Mountain lion supporters celebrate the 20th anniversary of the passage of California's Proposition 117 -- The Mountain Lion Initiative
  •   Despite predictions by biologists that there's only enough suitable habitat in North Dakota to support a few dozen lions at most, the North Dakota Game & Fish Department decides to increase the annual mountain lion hunting quota as well as establishing a unlimited hunting zone for the majority of the state.
  •   A wayward lion is killed for public safety reasons late at night after it wanders into downtown Berkeley, California.
  •   Proposition 117 protections of mountain lions were abrogated by contracting out lion removal activities near Bighorn sheep herds to the USDA's Wildlife Services. Wildlife Services employees were allowed to use inhumane traps, poison, and snares to catch and kill lions at random, to shoot-on-sight, and even to kill mother lions without regard for their dependent kittens.
  • The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks confirms the fifth documented sighting of a mountain lion in that state since the last known cat was shot by a hunter in 1904.
  •   A young, dispersing male mountain lion (only the 12th confirmed sighting since Missouri's last native mountain lion was killed in 1927) was spooked by nearby deer hunters and took refuge up a tree. Claiming that there was an immediate threat to people or livestock the landowner showed up and killed it.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the eastern cougar is now officially extinct.
  •   The California Department of Fish and Game opens an investigation into reports of an ongoing illegal mountain lion hunting operation at Tejon Ranch in California. The 270,000 acre ranch, located in the Tehachapi mountain range just north of Los Angeles, is a high-priced hunting farm.
  • HB 2337 -- a bill that would have overturned the 17-year old, voter-approved ban on hunting lions with hounds -- died in the Oregon state Senate.
  •   DNA samples prove that the young, male mountain lion hit and killed by a vehicle in Milford, Connecticut, originated thousands of miles away in the Black Hills region of South Dakota.
  •   California Department of Fish and Game Commission President, Dan Richards, comes under public condemnation after posting a photograph of him holding up his freshly killed mountain lion trophy. Though the lion was killed on a legal hunt in Idaho, the action brought into question the issue of Mr. Richards' qualifications to sit on the commission, as well as the validity of many of the committee's tenets and practices. As a result several reform bills were submitted in the legislature.
  •   South Dakota closed its seventh season of mountain lion hunting with a record 73 lions killed. Many of those killed were kittens or non-breeding subadults. Because of the state's lion hunting policies, scientists are now questioning the sustainability of the lion population in the Black Hills -- a critical spawning ground for the recolonization of the species throughout the Midwest.
  •   Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signs into law LB 928 authorizing the issuance of lion hunting permits. The state's first hunt is expected to start in January of 2013, and take place in that section of the Black Hills that reside within Nebraska's borders.
  • WildEarth Guardians files a lawsuit against USDA's Wildlife Services asking a federal judge to shut down the agency that is "outdated, illegal and a waste of federal money." For eighty years, and at an annual cost of approximately $125 million dollars of taxpayer money, Wildlife Services has used poison, aerial gunning, traps, and often other illegal methods to kill millions of animals for the benefit of the agricultural community.
  •   In an attempt to appease disgruntled ranchers, Wyoming proposes to create a special "unlimited quota" hunting zone for that portion of the Black Hills that is located within the state.
  •   In May, Missouri Senate Bill 738 -- authorization for anyone to kill a mountain lion on sight --officially died in committee.
  •   Reminiscent of the previous year's incident in Berkeley, a young, wayward mountain lion is shot and killed in a downtown Santa Monica, California mall courtyard.

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