Thursday, December 21, 2006

Colorado officials want deer hunting to control mountain lions

Mike Hooker

(CBS4) BOULDER, Colo. The state wants to make sure hunting is an option in managing mountain lions in Boulder County, but it's not the lions they're considering hunting. Instead, it's their prey -- deer.

When mountain lions cross paths with people it's sometimes deadly for the people and the lion.

There are mountain lion warning signs at some Boulder County open space areas to reduce the chance of conflict.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife believes that hunters could perhaps help control the people vs. mountain lion situations by hunting deer.

"The lions will disperse and manage themselves to a degree if the prey base is dispersed," said Rick Enstrom, a wildlife commissioner.

He said the state will soon embark on a study of mountain lions on the Front Range.

Flagstaff Mountain, just outside Boulder, is where a 7-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion last spring.

Enstrom hopes big game hunting can be part of the mountain lion discussion in Boulder County parks.

"What we don't want to do is react to another disaster where they call the Division of Wildlife and say 'come and get your cat,'" Enstrom said.

"There are a lot of people who would not like to see hunting on open space at all," said Ron Stewart, with Boulder Co. Parks and Open Space. "I mean any king of hunting."

He said the mountain lion study will provide a crucial scientific base to make decisions about hunting deer to reduce the mountain lion numbers on public land.

"Just jumping to conclusions ... is the sort of thing that needs to be examined," Stewart said.

The commissioner agreed but said historically, hunting is the single most effective tool for managing big game and their predators.

The DOW said it already has longstanding hunting arrangements on open space in Jefferson and Larimer counties.

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