Four years after holding a SHOT Show news conference pointing out the dangers of ballot box biology, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hosted another in Las Vegas. This time, the focus is a 2024 anti-hunting citizen ballot initiative in Colorado that would ban the management of mountain lions, bobcats and lynx.
Out-of-state interests, including environmental groups and animal rights activists, used a similar approach in 2020 to avoid input by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) biologists and researchers, and placed an issue on the ballot to forcibly introduce wolves into Colorado. RMEF was heavily involved and spent more than $300,000, including the creation of TV and radio spots and other outreach, to try to defeat the effort. It passed by less than one percent of the vote.
“Anti-hunting interests have been emboldened by that victory,” said Ryan Bronson, RMEF director of government affairs. “In 2022, they attempted to ban mountain lion hunting at the legislature, but a groundswell of sportsmen organized and were able to defeat that bill.”
Now, supporters of this new initiative have until July 5 to gather 124,238 verified signatures. If successful, the initiative will appear on the November 2024 ballot.
“These attacks on scientific wildlife management are dangerous. Ballot initiatives and the ballot box biology that they bring reduce complex ecological systems to soundbites and pleas to emotion,” added Bronson. “Today, they are trying to ban cat hunting in Colorado, but this is only a step toward eliminating all hunting and trapping.”
Proponents claim hunting and trapping mountain lions and bobcats increases the risk of human-lion conflict, yet CPW reports in-state hunting-trapping harvest data over the last four years shows no evidence of elevated levels of human-mountain lion where hunting takes place.
“Very few places in Colorado have high harvest levels, but our human-lion incidents data doesn’t show more conflicts in areas of harvest. In fact, some of our higher conflict areas (Glenwood/Roaring Fork, Durango, Front Range) have relatively low harvest,” according to CPW’s FAQ.
Based on years of successful management thanks to highly regulated hunting and trapping seasons, CPW also points out neither of the species are biologically threatened and “managing lions and bobcats with harvest is a tool to maintain more stable populations compared to more widely fluctuating populations that would likely occur without hunting.”
RMEF maintains that state agencies, such as CPW, manage wildlife in line North American Wildlife Conservation Model’s main principles that wildlife belong to all Americans and need to be managed so their populations will be sustained forever.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)