The following is an excerpt from the Montana Mountain Lion Status Report provided by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks at the 10th Mountain Lion Workshop in 2011:
“Montana has a goal of maintaining a reasoned diversity of mountain lion objectives across Montana’s different habitats and associated tolerance levels for mountain lions. Fundamentally, different mountain lion objectives are primarily achieved through adjusted female harvest. A spectrum of lion habitat and human tolerance for mountain lions runs in a ‘decreasing’ continuum from west to east…. While management objectives often vary across these physical and human landscapes, fundamental management strategies relative to female harvest do not. That is, higher or lower mountain lion objectives are commonly achieved through higher or lower female lion harvest.”
“In addition to the varying objectives influenced by diverse habitats and other landscape features, population status also influences female lion harvest….Management questions of prey amounts and wolf interactions are also present in some cases…”
In recent years, mountain lion management in Montana has become an extremely contentious issue, with environmental groups, houndsmen, outfitters, and boot hunters all disagreeing over quotas and the objectives of management in the state, particularly in Region 2 (Missoula/Bitterroot area). Combined with concerns over declining ungulate populations in portions of the state, the mountain lion has been the subject of continuous substantial scrutiny and debate. Amidst complex ecological problems, Montana FWP continues to allow high levels of mountain lion harvest each year across the state.
Montana has multiple open seasons for mountain lions, including an early archery season (without hounds) that runs September 6 – October 19, a fall season (without hounds) October 25 – November 30, and a winter season (with hounds) December 1 – April 14.
Quotas remain high in most areas of the state. During the 2013 season, 519 cougars were killed (213 of which were females). The quota for the 2014 season amounts to nearly 600 cats statewide.
Montana is one of six states (in addition to Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) that provides cougar-specific hunter education in order to help hunters better identify the age/sex of a cougar and reduce incidental/illegal mortality.