Trophy hunting ban bill dies in committee – The Sopris Sun


It was quick. Senate Bill 31 – a measure that would have banned trophy hunting of cougars, bobcats and lynx in Colorado – was introduced in the state legislature on January 12 and, less than 30 days later late, died in commission. The state Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, chaired by Eagle County rancher Kerry Donovan, voted 4-1 Thursday, Feb. 3, against moving the bill forward. The only vote in favor came from the measure’s remaining sponsor, Sonya Jacquez Lewis (D-Boulder County).

Lewis said at Thursday’s hearing that the bill prohibits killing these cats for sport but does not prohibit killing them for public safety, the protection of livestock or for federally directed scientific research. .

SB-22-031 was controversial from the start with lawmakers receiving torrents of emails opposing the bill. Then, in late January, three co-sponsors — Senator Joann Ginal and Reps. Judy Amabile and Monica Duran, all Democrats — dropped their support. A Jan. 29 editorial in the Boulder Daily Camera suggested their decision was politically motivated by pressure from pro-hunting lobbyists.

But, a Feb. 3 response from lawmakers said they had withdrawn their support because the bill was not ready. They said that for an animal welfare bill to pass, people on all sides need to discuss the issue, make concessions and buy into a workable policy. “We were certainly not intimidated by the hunting lobby,” they wrote.

Lewis sent the bill to committee anyway. She said she originally introduced the bill because too many cougars and bobcats are killed by hunters every year in Colorado.

According to statistics from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), 383 cougars were killed by hunters — or “harvested” — in 2011. Lewis cited CPW statistics from 2020 which showed 515 harvested that year. The peak year for cougar hunting was 2018, with 541 taken.

As for bobcats, in 2013-2014 hunters killed 1,945, up from 562 a decade earlier. The Denver Post reports that over 1,900 bobcats were killed in 2018-2019. The CPW has rejected a proposed ban on hunting and trapping bobcats in 2019.

“What’s going on with the bobcats is really mystifying,” Lewis said. Bobcats are only hunted for their fur. She wondered why someone would trap a bobcat and leave it in a cage for hours without food or water when the pelts only sell for $50. According to Trapping Today, global fur markets are in decline for a variety of reasons, including lack of consumer demand, particularly in the United States. Most North American bobcat pelts sell for $30 to $60 and are shipped overseas.

Lewis explained that human development is the biggest threat to Colorado’s big cats. “But let’s not forget the transportation corridors, the drought, the wildfires and now this huge increase in recreational hunting,” she said. “We need to reduce the unnecessary killing of these animals so they can remain resilient to our changing landscape.”

Lewis said most Colorado residents oppose the recreational hunting of big cats. A December 2020 poll by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) shows that more than 70% oppose trophy hunting or trapping of cougars and bobcats. A 2019 National Shooting Sports Foundation survey showed that only 24% of people living in the West approve of trophy hunting.

But that was not the case at Thursday’s hearing. Predictably, Colorado hunters and ranchers opposed the measure, citing livestock predation, the need to control big cat populations, local economic benefits, financial support for CPW, and the model North American Wildlife Conservation Authority (NAMWC), which provides a structure for wildlife management in the United States. .

Ryan McSparran, CPW liaison for backcountry hunters and anglers, told the committee that SB 31 would “untangle” NAMWC. “It is imperative that Colorado Parks and Wildlife retain its authority over wildlife management by making science-based decisions.” In other words, wildlife management in the state is up to CPW, not legislation. This was a common thread running through all the opposition testimony, as was the perceived lack of scientific information from wildlife advocates, at odds with CPW management practices.

CPW was noticeably absent from Thursday’s hearing. The agency provided no testimonials, statistics or population figures, largely because there are no specific population figures for cougars and bobcats statewide. CPW estimates a population of 3,000 to 7,000 cougars. Bobcat numbers continue to be reflected in harvest data. Population studies are “in progress,” the agency’s website says.

Supporters of the bill included HSUS, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Mountain Lion Foundation and others from across the state. Delia Malone, a Redstone-based conservationist who worked on Colorado’s wolf reintroduction bill and the Sierra Club’s new wild horse and donkey policy, advocates for predator conservation.

She explained that they improve ecosystems and reduce trophic cascades. “Large carnivores structure ecosystems, maintain healthy landscapes and enable a full range of biological diversity, from common to rare,” she said.


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