A bill in the Colorado General Assembly would put a total halt to some kinds of predator hunting within the state. The proposed bill is known as SB22-031 and, if passed, “generally prohibits shooting, wounding, killing, or trapping a bobcat, Canada lynx, or mountain lion.” The bill was introduced to the Colorado Senate on January 12, 2021, and now goes to the Agriculture & Natural Resources committee for consideration. The bill is sponsored by four Democrats, including senators Sonya Jaquez Lewis and Joann Ginal, and representatives Judy Amabile and Monica Duran. The sponsors all represent urban districts on the state’s front range.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) currently holds a closely managed mountain lion season. CPW also allows the harvest of bobcats during a season that typically extends from December through the end of February, with no bag or possession limits. Canada lynx are protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are not currently hunted in Colorado, so SB22-031’s provision to prohibit Canada lynx could be considered a preemptive move should Canada lynx be delisted sometime down the line. SB22-031 would indefinitely ban the recreational hunting of these three species while allowing for the limited take of individual animals for reasons such as to prevent an immediate livestock depredation incident, in self-defense, and under a scientific research collection permit.

The introduction of SB22-031 is a striking move to limit hunting opportunities in a state where hunting and fishing contribute $3.25 billion to the economy annually, according to the Colorado Wildlife Council. The bill has garnered the support of a coalition of anti-hunting and environmentalist groups that includes the Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Colorado Sierra Club, and The Humane Society of the United States, among other organizations.

Many Hunters and Conservationists Have Come Out Swiftly Against the Legislation

The Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers argued that “this bill would unravel our longstanding hunting traditions and undermine the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation by recklessly stripping Colorado Parks & Wildlife of their authority to regulate hunting and manage wildlife through a science-based decision-making process.” The organization is urging folks to contact state legislatures and join the organization in opposing the bill.

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Brian Lynn, vice president of communications for the Sportsmen’s Alliance, argues that the pending legislation would impact more people than just predator hunters. This bill isn’t just a Colorado issue, and it’s not just a predator-hunting issue,” said Lynn in a press release. “Senate Bill 22-031 is an issue for every deer and elk hunter in Colorado, and for every non-resident hunter who has dreamed, saved money for, and plans to hunt the state in the future.”

CPW has managed mountain lions as a big-game species since 1965. The state currently holds 3,800 to 4,400 mature lions. Meanwhile, the state’s bobcat population is estimated to be around 12,000 individuals. Canada lynx were extirpated from Colorado in the early 1970s due to trapping, poisoning, and development. CPW reintroduced Canada lynx to the state in 1999. The restoration was considered a success, and Canada lynx now roam much of the state. SB22-031 seems to ignore the CPW’s proven record of managing healthy big-game populations while maintaining and managing predator numbers.