The Nevada Department of Wildlife states that cougar populations are “healthy” statewide, and that lions can be found in all of the major mountain ranges in the state. Up until 1965, Nevada considered the cougar a “noxious” animal and even offered a bounty for the cat. Today, cougars are managed as big game animals through a regulated hunt season.
The state notes that the presence of locally abundant alternative prey such as elk, bighorn sheep, and wild horses seems to result in a stable to increasing lion population, despite a decrease in deer numbers beginning in the late 1980s. Since 2003, DNA in the form of muscle samples have been collected from harvested cougars, as well as the first premolar to determine age.
In 2007, legislation was proposed that declared an open season on cougars with no restriction on how, when or how many cougars could be killed and allowed aerial gunning and use of spring guns, set guns, and “other devices for destruction.” Fortunately, this legislation was defeated.
NDOW’s website acknowledges the positive role cougars play in ecosystems, stating: “Some people view Mountain Lions as detrimental to the deer population in Nevada. In many cases, their hunting activity is actually beneficial to prey animal populations.”
Nevada last updated it’s management plan in 1995.
Mountain lion season is open year-round and hounds are permitted. Hunter harvest has remained relatively stable even as quotas have fluctuated wildly (some hunt areas have seen quotas raised recently, while others have declined).
During the 2013-2014 season, hunters killed 153 lions, 62 of which were females. Another 30 cats were killed for “predator control.”