Since 1971, when they became a "protected" species in New Mexico, more than 6,630 mountain lions have been reported killed by humans. About 90 percent of the total deaths during this time period were a result of recreational hunting. Around 5 percent died for New Mexico's preemptive mountain lion control programs (livestock & bighorn sheep), with the remaining 5 percent occurring as a result of known depredation, road kills, and uncategorized mortalities. Trapping now threatens the lives of even more lions, wildlife, and domestic animals.
Like most states, New Mexico's first lion management plan took the form of paying a bounty for every lion killed where the pelt was turned over to authorities. This program continued in New Mexico until 1970.
In 1971, mountain lions became a "protected" species, under the management authority of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. In that year the Department initiated a 4-month regulated hunting season in the southwest corner of the state, with spotted kittens and females accompanied by kittens protected from being hunted. Over the years the length of the hunting season, the size of the legal hunt areas, and the hunting harvest limits have been expanded to be year-long events (April through March) and include almost all of the state.
In 1983, New Mexico's agricultural industry, concerned with potential livestock depredation, introduced a legislative bill to eliminate the mountain lions so-called protected status. While the bill was eventually tabled for lack of information, it did cause NMDGF to produce a detailed report on lions in New Mexico (Evans 1983). The reports final recommendations resulted in reducing the 1984 harvest limit and shortened (for a year) New Mexico's lion hunting season.
In 1999, NMDGF implemented a mountain lion harvest quota system based on Game Management Unit (GMU). New Mexico is divided into 69 GMUs, each with its own lion population estimates and hunting quotas.
Depredation is defined in New Mexico as "property damage by protected wildlife on privately owned or leasehold interest land, where damage value exceeds applicable income earned on that site from the wildlife species causing damage."
NMDGF issues depredation permits against mountain lions on any verified complaint.
New Mexico has two long-term programs which attempt to protect other species by lethally removing mountain lions from specific geographic locations.
The first program, passed by the NMDGF Commission in 1985, was in response to an increasing number of livestock reported killed by mountain lions in GMU-30. In 1986, The Commission ordered NMDGF to preemptively kill mountain lions found on ranches that had more than 6 verified lion depredation occurrences in any 3-year period. A maximum of 14 mountain lions can be lethally removed from GMU-30 in any given year as part of this program. Since the program's inception, at least 206 mountain lions have been killed in GMU-30.
The second program was created by the NMDGF Commission in 1997 in response to declining rocky mountain and desert bighorn sheep populations. Bighorn sheep hunting-tags auction off for large sums of money, thereby providing an economic incentive for NMDGF to remove natural predators and assist bighorn sheep herds which have been decimated by detrimental climate, deteriorating habitat, and diseases introduced by domestic sheep grazing on public lands.
In 1999 the Commission authorized NMDGF to preemptively kill up to 34 mountain lions each year from the following five mountain ranges: Peloncillo, Ladron, Hatchets, San Andres, and Fra Cristobal. During the first 8 years of the program (1999-2006) 103 mountain lions were killed as part of this program.
Since 1917, (the first year records are available) at least 7,779 mountain lions have been reported killed by humans in New Mexico.
This figure does not include:
Since 1971, when they became a "protected" species in New Mexico, at least 6,630 mountain lions have been reported killed by humans. About 90 percent of the total deaths since 1971 were a result of recreational hunting. Around 5 percent died for New Mexico's preemptive mountain lion control programs (livestock & bighorn sheep), with the remaining 5 percent occurring as a result of known depredation, road kills, and uncategorized mortalities.
The New Mexico Game and Fish Department (NMGFD) opened its cougar hunting regulations for amendments. This only happens once every four years. On August 27, 2015 the NMGFD Commission adopted a proposal to allow the use of snares and traps to kill lions, as well as making it easier for deer and elk hunters to kill any lions they randomly come across. Trapping is a cruel and indiscriminate practice that injures and kills millions of wildlife and pets annually. The Commission ignored the voice of the public and the science. We lost this round, but the fight is far from over. Check out the Action tab to learn more.