(The Center Square) – A group is hoping to gather enough signatures to secure a ballot initiative asking Colorado voters to ban hunting mountain lions and bobcats.
The group Cats Aren’t Trophies recently launched its campaign to collect at least 124,238 valid signatures to get the measure on the 2024 ballot. The effort to put the issue in front of voters comes after failed attempts with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission as well as failed legislation in the General Assembly.
“All of their efforts they’ve thrown at us have been stopped,” Dan Gates, president of the Colorado Trappers and Predator Hunters Association, said in an interview with The Center Square. “And we even defeated them when animal rights activists were appointed to the commissions by the governor. But we also defeated this when it was in the legislature. The opposition didn’t like the outcomes, so they have put together a smoke-and-mirrors campaign with the voters.”
Cats Aren’t Trophies claims on its website that “The vast majority of Coloradans disapprove of using electronics and hounds to deceive, chase, contain and kill wild cats all for fun and for a trophy. When systems fail to stop unethical practices that degrade wildlife and orphan kittens, citizens have every right to exercise their democratic freedoms and call for a vote of the people.”
In 2022, a bill to ban mountain lion and bobcat hunting was indefinitely postponed by a 4-1 vote in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Senate Bill 22-031 would have generally prohibited shooting, wounding, killing or trapping a bobcat, Canada lynx or mountain lion, with several exceptions, including protecting an individual from bodily harm.
Colorado voters have in recent years narrowly approved another measure that determined wildlife management for the state.
Proposition 114, a measure requiring creation of a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on the Western Slope of Colorado, passed by 56,986 votes, a margin of less than 2%, in November 2020. The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund raised $2.4 million to support the initiative, according to Ballotpedia. Coloradans Protecting Wildlife and Stop the Wolf PAC raised $1.06 million in opposing the initiative.
The three-page initiative, entitled, “Prohibit Trophy Hunting,” defines the practice as intentionally killing, wounding or entrapping a mountain lion, bobcat or lynx, or discharging or releasing any deadly weapon at the animals.
“They say they want to curtail trophy hunting, but the definition in the petition says ‘intentional killing,’” Gates said. “All of hunting is intentional killing. If they are going to classify that hunting as intentional killing, how can they not be for getting rid of all forms of hunting?”
Cats Aren’t Trophies’ website states trophy hunting “orphans kittens.” However, state law already prohibits killing a female mountain lion with kittens present.
“We invite all Colorado residents to join us in a campaign to end a highly commercial, high-tech head-hunting exercise that doesn’t produce edible meat or sound wildlife management outcomes, but only orphaned cubs and social chaos among the surviving big cats,” Samantha Bruegger, Cats Aren’t Trophies campaign manager, said in a statement.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates there are 3,000 to 7,000 mountain lions in the state. The National Wildlife Federation stated mountain lion populations in the western U.S. are stable due to conservation efforts, but are lower than historical levels.