Changing Planet

Wyoming’s Proposed Mountain Lion Trapping Bill Contradicts Science

A mountain lion unlucky enough to be caught in a trap set for a bobcat. Photograph compliments of Nevada Department of Wildlife and Tom Knudson, author of RevealNews article, “America’s trapping boom relies on cruel and grisly tools.”

This January, a bill called HB0012 was introduced in the Wyoming legislature that, if passed, would allow any person with a valid hunting license to kill a mountain lion using a trap or snare. This bill is not based on valid science, and the negative consequences for mountain lions, other wildlife, Wyoming citizens, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are far-reaching. As a Wyoming resident and mountain lion biologist, I’m alarmed to see our legislature considering a bill that threatens the balance of nature on which our state so deeply depends.

Ostensibly, this bill was introduced to provide “additional tools” to reverse recent mule deer population declines, a valuable game species for Wyoming residents. In reality, the connection between mountain lions and mule deer population declines is tenuous at best. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has openly shared that mule deer declines are largely the result of other factors, including habitat loss and disruption to migration corridors. It is also well accepted among wildlife biologists that deer dynamics are driven primarily by weather patterns, and resulting forage availability, not predators. In fact, a recent intensive, long term study from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game emphasized that removing mountain lions and coyotes did not provide any long-term benefit to deer populations. The researchers reported: “In conclusion, benefits of predator removal appear to be marginal and short term in southeastern Idaho and likely will not appreciably change long-term dynamics of mule deer populations in the intermountain west” (Hurley et al. 2011). (Emphasis added).

Like mule deer, mountain lions are also experiencing significant population declines in some areas; research conducted by Panthera in Teton County, Wyoming shows that mountain lion numbers north of Jackson have declined by half over the last eight years. Mountain lions in Wyoming are currently legally hunted with all legal firearms, archery equipment and trailing hounds, and these methods have proven effective in reducing mountain lion populations across the West. Introducing trapping – an imprecise method of hunting – could cripple mountain lion populations further, as well as rapidly and unexpectedly influence other wildlife populations.

The very nature of trapping is non-discriminate. Trapping consists of snares and leghold traps, including steel jaws, which often cause serious damage to animals – breaking legs, ripping skin, or completely severing limbs, via the trap or through self-mutilation. Traps deliver painful, slow deaths to wildlife. In Wyoming, it is currently illegal to kill a female mountain lion with kittens or the kittens themselves. However, a trapper cannot dictate what animal is caught, resulting in the potential maiming or killing of female mountain lions, their kittens, or federally-listed wolves, wolverines, Canada lynx, and grizzly bears. Traps may also injure people, should they stumble into one well concealed.

Mountain lion kitten against the backdrop of her mother. Photograph by Mark Elbroch / Panthera
Mountain lion kitten against the backdrop of her mother. Photograph by Mark Elbroch / Panthera

Trapping is not only imprecise in its implementation, it is also nearly impossible to track and monitor. This bill would completely undermine mountain lion management currently conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, introducing chaos to a tracking system that may not be ideal, but works. When Wyoming’s House and Senate representatives introduce legislation that threatens their own Wyoming Game & Fish Department’s ability to protect our state’s immense and singular biodiversity, something is clearly wrong.

Every year, visitors from around the globe flock to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, investing millions of dollars in Wyoming communities, in the hopes of glimpsing charismatic apex predators, like the mountain lion. As one of America’s richest wildlife resources, Wyoming can and should be a model of conservation and coexistence.

Recently, similar bills to permit mountain lion trapping came before the legislatures of New Mexico and Montana. New Mexico passed the bill into law, while Montana defeated it. The eyes of the American West are on Wyoming. It falls on us to make sustainable, scientific decisions for our state and every creature with which we share this precarious and wonderful balance that we call home.

Panthera has joined forces with the Mountain Lion Foundation to oppose HB0012. The MLF has done great work in creating a petition for those who are interested in joining us in opposing the bill–found here–signatures will be grouped by region and each will be signed to a letter sent to WY representatives on your behalf, highlighting our scientific and ethical objections of this bill.  Or if you prefer to contact Wyoming representatives directly, this link will bring you to a list of all representatives and their contact information. Thank you for your support.

Logo_BlackBackgrounds_smallLiterature cited:

Hurley, M. A., Unsworth, J. W., Zager, P., Hebblewhite, M., Garton, E. O., Montgomery, D. M., Skalski, J. R. and Maycock, C. L. (2011), Demographic response of mule deer to experimental reduction of coyotes and mountain lions in southeastern Idaho. Wildlife Monographs, 178: 1–33.

Mark Elbroch has contributed to puma research in Idaho, Colorado, California, Wyoming, and Chile, and lots of other carnivores along the way. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Davis, where his dissertation research focused on puma ecology in Patagonia in the presence of endangered humeul deer. He has authored/coauthored 10 books on natural history ( and numerous scientific articles published in peer-review journals. Mark is currently a Project Leader for Panthera, a US-based non-profit that conducts science to promote wild cat conservation worldwide.
  • Judy Miller-Rogers

    Soon there will be no mountain lions left in Wyoming. Their bodies will not be used for food but to serve as a trophy for those who are eager to prove themselves to like-minded people. When the mountain lions are extirpated from the beautiful State of Wyoming, how much will you spend in the future to re-introduce them? Think wolves!

  • Trent Balzer

    Hey Wyoming those are COLORADO COUGARS AS well, and often cross state lines. DON’T YOU DARE KILL THEM, because of you lame excuses. GOT THAT!!

  • Alan C Wood

    My wife and I travelled from Ireland last March to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone with the hope of seeing mountain lion. We were advised in Jackson Hole that these endangered animals that they are seldom seen by locals who live and look for wildlife all year round let alone by visiting enthusiasts. It is a great shame that trophy hunting of these rare and beautiful creatures is allowed and trapping them would be appallingly cruel. Don’t you realise there is an economic benefit from preserving mountain lions for enthusiasts to see? Yellowstone has a big boost in winter tourism since the reintroduction of wolves, and more people are coming to the Grand Tetons because the Panthera project shows there are mountain lion there.

  • Jeannie Armstrong Wiggins

    How can a civilized society allow such torture?

  • Christopher Spatz/Cougar Rewilding Foundation

    Thank you Panthera, MLF and National Geographic for stepping up to stop this bill.

  • Christie Watts

    I am not proud of my state for this. When I first moved here I saw Mt. Loins, wolves, grizzlies, and browns often. I had NO idea the barbaric practice of trapping still existed. This is done right next to our trails. I’ve seen dogs caught in these. It’s horrible. Until we stand up for those who don’t have a voice this will continue to happen. Please contact the Wy tourist board and hit it where it hurts. $

  • jane jenkins

    I can hardly believe that with all we know and love about animals your state is allowing the horrendous cruelty in this day and age to continue a snare a trap I will hope that those of you that voted for this will be caught in one of these and left to suffer the agony these living feeling wonderful animals have suffered shame on your state I will never visit again

  • James ray

    The bill hb0012 is a wrong and unethical way to control mtn lion populations in the state wy. Being a houndsmen I have seen first hand what snares and traps are capable of to the mtn lion and several other species. I’ve seen mtn lion with traps on there feet enabling them to catch food which as a result means starving to death. Missing toes from leg traps. Not only can this tool handy cap mtn lion to lead to a long starving death but it can also catch and kill none targeted animals. Such as the mule deer. Defeating the purpose of the purposed bill. You start setting bigger loops in snares for mtn lion and you will be catching deer to. Almost all game walks on the easiest trail to travel making it were you can’t just target one animal. All animals use trails just as we do roads. We already have mtn lion seasons and quotes that are not being filled per calender year and additional tags that are not being bought either. Not due to poor sportsman but lack of mtn lion numbers. The only ethical way to harvest mtn lion is by the use of hounds or spot and stock. This way the sportsman can actually determine the sex and age of the mtn lion being harvested. Instead of just killing anything and everything. If some one snares a female lion and it has new born young. They all end up dieing rather than being managed.

    • Mark Elbroch

      Thanks for adding this! It is largely accredited to Montana’s houndsmen that a similar bill to allow mountain trapping in Montana was recently defeated.

  • Casey

    Please don’t let this pass! As an environmental sciences major I know this is bad but as a human I know this is wrong!

  • Emiliann

    I am not from here, but hearing about his only saddens me at the thought of losing such a beautiful creature. Never once did I think that a specific animal would go into extinction during my time here on Earth. Shame to the trappers for destroying such a wonderful part of nature’s wildlife. I hope something can be done to right this tremendous wrong.

  • Priya Singh

    This is wrong. This is absolutely wrong!!!
    I can’t believe people would actually consider voting to kill a creature who doesn’t even know it might not come home to its cubs or might not even get to see the sun again.

  • Jen

    Is there a petition started yet? Advocacy comes in many forms …

    I find this outrageous and agree that something must be done .

  • Jen

    Is there a petition to sign yet?

    I feel this is outrageous and something should be done … We need to conserve and respect not make legal to kill and demand power! Which in the end causes extinction and global warming!

  • Chelsea Brown

    Horrible. Traps aren’t the answer, let’s make progressive decisions that can empower the mountain lion populations to increase or at the least, stabilize. We’re all in this together so we need to start acting like it.

  • Eva Sue

    Don’t waste your time killing animals for sport when you could be doing something worthwhile for your family and community. Leave mountain lions alone, and start thinking logically for your state and country. Do you really want to tell your children and loved ones that you were in part responsible for the extinction of a whole species? A species, by the way who would love nothing more than to stay miles away from you. Be kind, live and let live. There’s a payoff, I swear.

  • Angela Carswell

    I am extremely diasspointed to hear of this inhumane bill. Not only will this desolate the mountain lion population but it will create an imbalance within this ecosystem as these predictors keep pray populations in check.. Absouletly wrong move for management of this very important species…

  • Victoria larios

    Is just unfair to trap this beautifil wild life, like why? Is a life just like you and I and it is unconsedirable to trap this M.T lions, it is dissapointing of how humans are getting worse day by day.

  • Jean Schulz

    Trapping is cruel and really no different than human torture…looking at populations of species needs to be a controlling factor, also. Empathy for Animals starts with knowledge

  • Paul

    No to trapping!!! Save our majestic mountain lions!

  • Mary D’Amico

    Out humanity requires us to be good stewards

  • Paul

    No to trapping! Save our majestic mountain lions!!

  • Amy

    Action needs to be placed to protect these animals from this heinous form of killing. Not to mention keeping animal populations from declining.

  • Hannah Elvington

    This is torture and it is wrong. Respect and revere the natural bounty of our land and don’t let this happen to our animals. We can be better than this.

  • Amy

    Immediate action needs to be placed to prevent this heinous form of trapping these animals. Not to mention, preventing population levels from declining.

  • Carol McMorrow

    This cruel trapping of animals must be stopped now.

  • Jordan Griffin

    this is awful, is there a phone number we can call or an email address we can flood?

    • Mark Elbroch

      The link to contacts for the representatives includes phone numbers. They are currently in session and the bill could pop up today or tomorrow (likely)…give a call!

  • Bob Graham

    Wildlife is not some throwaway nothing. This bill must be defeated.

  • Dawn Olson

    The indiscriminate and barbaric practice of trapping has NO place in our society. This is not “management” or “sport”. It is cruelty, pure and simple.

  • Larry Cosgrave

    a petition to sign if you are against this bill:

  • Savannah Waggoner

    Don’t trap the mountain lions! It is inhumane. We should be ashamed of trying to pass this bill.

  • David Maxwell Braun

    There is an update from Mark Elbroch and Panthera for everyone who was concerned about the proposed Wyoming legislation that would have allowed hunting of mountain lions with a trap or snare. Read Mark’s post: A Win For Wyoming People and Mountain Lions

  • Robert Miller

    No mountain lions left! HA! There are more mountain lions now in the United States than in years. In fact there are so many that they are now migrating into states in the Midwest that they haven’t populated in over 100 years. Don’t believe me go look for yourself. Falling for junk science seems to be a popular thing these days for low information people

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