According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department:
“The goal of mountain lion management in Wyoming is to sustain mountain lion populations throughout core habitat at varying densities depending on management objectives. Those management objectives include providing recreational/hunting opportunity, maintaining ungulate populations at established objectives or in line with current habitat conditions, minimizing mountain lion depredation on pets and livestock, and reducing the potential for human injury.”
Wyoming Game & Fish Department reports denote that the cougar is “common” in most of Wyoming, and as such, they manage cougars as Trophy Game. As a result, the Department’s primary tool for “managing” cougar populations in the state is sport hunting. The sport hunting of cougars is allowed nearly statewide, and cats may be pursued with hounds. In recent years, legal harvest in the state has exceeded 300 lions.
While WGFD conducts research on lion populations in the state, they have never released a population estimate; instead, they manage cougars based on population trend estimates. There are serious concerns that overharvest in some parts of Wyoming is leading to localized population declines. The combined lack of information and intense harvest is a real threat to the cougar’s long-term viability in many parts of the state.
In recent years, WGFD has changed it’s tone on the legitimacy of sport hunting as a “management tool” to aid ungulate populations and reduce conflict. Members of the department now acknowledge that the sport hunting of cougars is primarily allowed as a “recreational opportunity.”
Wyoming last updated it’s Mountain Lion Management Plan in 2006.
Cougars are managed as Trophy Game animals in the state of Wyoming, and as such, they can be legally hunted. The season for most hunt areas is open September 1 – March 31, however, there are a number of areas that are open year-round (some of which have unlimited harvest). Cougars may be pursued with hounds statewide.
Under the current (2006) Mountain Lion Management Plan, WGFD manages mountain lion hunt areas under a “source, stable, or sink” policy. In areas where the Department believes a high lion density is socially tolerable and will not lead to conflict, quotas are more restrictive to reduce mountain lion mortality and promote dispersal (“sources”). Conversely, “sinks” are areas where high densities of cougars are not socially tolerable (due to livestock depredation complaints and/or declining ungulate populations), and as a result, quotas are aggressive.
Over the course of the last decade, quotas have gradually crept up. As a result, hunter harvest has nearly doubled in that time, from 175 cats in 2005 to 305 cats in 2013. For the 2014 hunt season, the quota was 375 cats of either sex. It should be noted that Wyoming is one of a number of states that does not have female subquotas.
Wyoming is one of six states (in addition to Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah) that provides cougar-specific hunter education in order to help hunters better identify the age/sex of a cougar and reduce incidental/illegal mortality.