Wildlife officials seek online input for Western Slope mountain lion management plan
Plan calls for suppression efforts in the Vail Valley to limit human-lion encounters
EAGLE COUNTY — Just three weeks ago, mountain lion sightings were the big news in Eagle County.
The lions haven’t gone away, it’s just that interest in their presence has been replaced by other concerns. But now that we all have a bit of time on our hands, there’s an opportunity to combine COVID-19 isolation with lion education.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has posted its draft of its West Slope Mountain Lion Management Plan online to solicit public input on the proposed framework to manage mountain lion populations in western Colorado.
“The whole Western Slope is under a new proposal to manage mountain lion by creating larger management units that more closely reflect mountain lion home ranges,” said Craig Wescoatt, the district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
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Historically, mountain lions in Colorado have been managed on smaller, localized scales similar to deer and elk. However, current research shows that managing mountain lions on a landscape level is more effective and appropriate. In its draft plan, CPW staff referenced numerous recent publications and advancements in the science of lion management since its lion plans were last updated in 2004.
Wescoatt noted there are two main considerations reflected in the new plan.
“The majority of the Western Slope will be managed at current population levels, which is called stable management,” he said. “However there are units surrounding Eagle, Vail, Avon, Basalt and El Jebel that will be managed to lower mountain lion population levels. That is called suppression management.”
“Suppression does not mean elimination,” Wescoatt continued.” We are simply trying to lower the mountain lion numbers to manage the number of human/mountain lion contacts that are occurring in those areas. Suppression is primarily for a human safety factor.”
The plan does not include proposed lion population figures but it does offer parameters to define a stable population and parameters for suppression action.
During February CPW staff held public meetings to present and discuss the new draft management plan framework. The initial public feedback refined aspects of the draft plan that will guide management on the Western Slope beginning with the 2021-2022 mountain lion season.
Public feedback received during the 30-day open feedback period for the draft plan will be incorporated in the final West Slope Mountain Lion Management Plan draft presented to the Parks and Wildlife commission.
To provide input on mountain lion populations, fill out the CPW’s online survey. All public feedback must be submitted during the 30-day open feedback period, which is live now and closes on April 12 at midnight.
For more information, visit the CPW Lion Population Management Plan webpage.
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When a crowd of around 500 people showed up in Vail on Tuesday night to join a protest march in support of Black Lives Matter, the gathering plainly violated Eagle County’s current COVID-19 recommendations.