Letter: Gov. Cox should veto misinformed bill for the good of Utah’s mountain lions and people

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A female mountain lion after being captured by scientists in the Oquirrh Mountains in 2011.

The Utah Legislature’s decision to minimize regulations governing the take of mountain lions is misinformed, undermines the expert guidance of its DWR, and ignores the opinion of the majority of people, who value mountain lions as part of healthy ecosystems.

Although the DWR has conducted research to estimate some populations of mountain lions, there aren’t any credible studies suggesting the state’s mountain lion population is currently increasing. What is clear from Utah research is that heavy harvest reduces mountain lion numbers. Since 2020, there has been unlimited harvest in more than 50% of the state, so logic would suggest that there are fewer mountain lions today than three years ago, not more.

Neither is there evidence to support HB469 as the solution to concerns about declining mule deer populations, or people’s lives and livelihoods. In fact, some studies show that heavily hunting mountain lions can increase risks for people and livestock, though we don’t yet know what threshold of hunting leads to increased conflicts. In rare cases when a mountain lion threatens people or livestock, the best strategy is for an expert with DWR to remove it.

HB469 is not only terrible for Utah’s mountain lions, it’s bad for its people too. Gov. Spencer Cox should veto it.

Mark Elbroch, Sequim, Wash.

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