Mountain lion hunters in one area of the Black Hills may be able to hunt an unlimited number of lions if new regulations are approved.

In response to growing concern over human and livestock safety from people living in the Black Hills, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is considering creating a new mountain lion hunt area with an unlimited quota and changing limits in two other areas.

More than 100 people attended a meeting in Hulett in February to tell Game and Fish officials they worried about their safety and that of their livestock and pets because of the growing mountain lion population. Northeast Wyoming residents also worried that lions were reducing the area’s deer populations.

They wanted the lion population decreased, said rancher and state Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower.

As a result, Game and Fish officials are proposing to change the current two hunt areas to three. The new one, Hunt Area 32 near Hulett, will have an unlimited quota during the standard Sept. 1-March 31 season. Hunt Area 1 near Sundance will keep its current quota of 24 lions, but the size of the area will be cut by about one third. The Newcastle area’s size will be cut in half and the quota dropped from 30 to 12 lions.

There have been livestock damage issues in the area and deer numbers are down, said Joe Sandrini, a Newcastle Game and Fish biologist.

Driskill said the changes are a good compromise.

“I really, really applaud the Game and Fish,” he said. “They went out of their way to listen to both the landowners and sportsmen, and made a nice job to make an effort to do what everyone wants done and still preserve the lion population.”

Mountain lion advocates worry about the changes and the effect they could have on one of the newest populations of mountain lions in North America.

Hunting mountain lions will not decrease attacks on livestock or reduce big game depredation, said Cougar Fund co-founder Tom Mangelsen.

Adult mountain lions are less likely to wander near urban areas or ranches since they can successfully hunt on their own, Mangelsen said. If the adults are killed, juveniles aren’t taught how to hunt naturally, and they will tend to look for smaller prey or wander into towns, causing more problems.

“It’s counterproductive to be killing large cougars and trophy cougars,” Mangelsen said. “In reality, it will exacerbate the problem and create juvenile delinquents.”

Game and Fish officials increased mountain lion quotas two years ago. The seasons are generally set every three years, but because of public concern, officials are proposing resetting these quotas one year early.

If the increase is too much, or not enough, biologists can re-examine the populations and hunting seasons next year, Sandrini said.

Game and Fish officials are also proposing to increase mountain lion quotas in the Sierra Madre from seven to 12 mountain lions and in the Elk Mountain area from six to 11 to address concerns about deer numbers. Both areas are in southeast Wyoming.

Reach Open Spaces reporter Christine Peterson at (307) 266-0524 or christine.peterson@trib.com.

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