A new bill in the Colorado state Senate would ban the hunting and trapping of bobcats, Canada lynxes, and mountain lions. But it contains an exception for livestock owners in the state. They can attack a big cat on their own property if it is immediately necessary to protect livestock.
The bill, SB22-031, makes it a misdemeanor to violate the ban. Punishments range from fines of $500 to $2,000 to one year in jail. Those convicted of the misdemeanor may also lose their hunting license for up to 5 years.
Moreover, under the bill, it would become a class 5 felony to sell or buy a mountain lion. It’s also a felony to solicit someone else to illegally hunt a mountain lion for profit.
New Colorado Bill Pits Environmentalists Against Hunters
Supporting the bill is a coalition of environmental and animal-rights groups. That includes the Center for Biological Diversity, the Colorado Sierra Club, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Humane Society of the United States. Hunting groups, such as Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and the Sportsmen’s Alliance, are uniformly opposed, per Field & Stream.
“Each year, trophy hunters kill hundreds of Colorado’s mountain lions and thousands of bobcats, typically chasing them down with packs of dogs,” the Humane Society said in a statement. “In addition, bobcats are frequently trapped and then shot at close range. Hunters kill these animals for trophies, bragging rights and to sell their pelts on international markets for fur production.”
Meanwhile, sportsmen’s groups argued that the fight over big cats should concern all hunters, not just those with their eyes on Colorado mountain lions. And they say the bill would destroy longstanding hunting traditions in the state.
“This bill isn’t just a Colorado issue, and it’s not just a predator-hunting issue,” the Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brian Lynn said 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.”
Various polls have found that 66 percent of Americans oppose trophy hunting. And over 70 percent of Coloradans oppose the hunting or trapping of mountain lions and bobcats. A sportsmen’s foundation and environmentalists conducted the polls, respectively.
Both Sides Say Big Money Is at Stake
Advocates of hunting big cats point out that hunting and fishing contribute billions to Colorado’s economy every year. Opponents say hunting is a small share of total recreation revenue. And it is outpaced by ecotourism, a lucrative and growing industry which makes live animals worth more than dead ones.
Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows that outdoor recreation in Colorado brought in roughly $9.6 billion for the state’s economy in 2020. However, hunting, shooting, and trapping generated a small fraction of that total.
All told, the new bill promises to reprise a familiar fight for Coloradans, pitting environmental groups against hunters and ranchers. But whether the bill will actually pass remains to be seen.