By Robert Lucke
Around Montana, hunting mountain lions this season has been a mixed bag. In some areas, the season, which runs from Dec. 1 to April 14, is already closed due to quotas being met. In other areas like the Bear Paws and south Missouri Breaks, the season is still open and quotas probably will not be met at all.
Wildlife biologist Al Rosgaard of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, reports on the mountain lion harvest to date in this part of the state.
"In the area including the Bear Paws and Missouri Breaks south of the Bear Paws there is a quota of 10 mountain lions," Rosgaard said. "Five only can be females. When the female quota has been filled, still the season is open for males but you have to be careful that you are shooting a male.
"So far in this area one male was taken in the Bear Paws and two females were taken in between Lion Coulee and Bullwhacker Coulee in the breaks. The male was taken south of Baldy."
Reasons for the lack of lions harvested are poor or no snow until after Christmas and poor snow even now in some areas. Lions in this country are hunted by dogs and new snow is needed for good tracking.
"Hunting requires new snow for tracking. Here, when we get snow, it might last a day," Rosgaard said. "It is tough to hunt mountain lions in this part of the state."
Hunting has been better in nearby regions.
"In the other part of this region, the Little Rockies which begins east of Cow Creek, the quota is three, one female and two males," he said. "That quota has been met and the season already closed on the 17th of January. All those lions were taken in the Little Rockies."
Meeting the quota in the Bear Paw area is doubtful.
"I would be surprised if we met the quota here. We may have one or two more taken before the end of the season," Rosgaard said. "We haven't met the quota in the Bear Paws for several seasons now. We have met the female sub-quota but not the entire quota."
Overall in Montana, about half the state has reached their quotas. One reason for that, particularly in North Western Montana, is that lions are hunted hard from the beginning of the season. So much so, that in that area, hunting regulations could change this year.
"There is a proposal that a substantial part of region one (North West Montana) might be applying for a special permit," Rosgaard said. "So far as I know they have determined the number is up in the North west and are going to have a limited number of permits. There will still be a quota but limited permits."
There is another mountain hunting season in Montana run in conjunction with general hunting season in the fall in which lions can be hunted without dogs. That season has not been successful with only 20 percent the quota being met.
So, it is true that there are many more lions these days in this part of Montana, and if so, why are quotas so low?
"We hear about mountain lions in a lot of different places. I think there are more in this area than there were twenty years ago, but I don't think we are in the same boat as the big mountains. Over there is their habitat -- heavily forested areas," Rosgaard said.