Field operations continue through December 2014. The data analysis phase begins January 2015.
To test biological assumptions used by CPW to manage mountain lion populations with recreational hunting.
To examine effects of sport-hunting on lion population dynamics.
To examine the genetics of a lion population.
To develop tools wildlife managers can use to estimate lion abundance.
To study lion diseases.
To develop strategies for managing lion populations.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers need reliable information on mountain lions in Colorado in order to develop management strategies that work to address public concerns and maintain healthy lion populations. However, the knowledge and tools needed to do so were limited, promoting this 10-year project.
The purpose of this study is to learn how sport-hunting impacts mountain lion population dynamics, develop tools for estimating lion abundance, and to develop strategies for managing lion populations. This knowledge will be provided to wildlife managers and to the public for application to lion management and conservation.
This project was designed with two 5-year periods, a reference period and a treatment period. In the reference period (completed 2004-2009), CPW closed the study area to mountain lion hunting. The reference period provided data on lion population dynamics without lion deaths caused by sport-hunting. During this time, researchers collected data on population abundance, sex and age structure, reproduction, and sources of mortality.
In the treatment period (2009-2014), researchers are manipulating the mountain lion population with sport hunting. The hunting treatment is designed to test assumptions CPW applies to other lion populations managed with sport-hunting in Colorado. The same type of data collected in the reference period is being collected in the treatment period for comparison.
In both study periods, researchers gathered mountain lion population characteristics by capturing, marking, radio-collaring, and tissue-sampling lions in the study area (e.g., skin, blood, saliva, tongues from dead lions). To date (August 2014), over 220 lions have been captured, marked, and sampled.
Moreover, in collaboration with researchers at Colorado State University and Oklahoma State University, CPW researchers have tested mountain lion tissues for diseases. CPW researchers are also collaborating with geneticists from Arizona State University to examine lion population genetics, relatedness, and reproductive success.
CPW expects the research findings to be applied to improve mountain lion management in Colorado and in public education and outreach.