July 1, 2024

A Tale of Two Mountain Lions

Article Contact: Marie Neumiller,

Why It Matters: This past week, the fish and game Commissions for both Montana and Washington State reviewed their mountain lion quotas and hunting seasons. Montana took an ecosystem approach and aimed for harvests that were sustainable for both mountain lions and ungulates while maintaining hunting opportunities. Washington focused solely on mountain lion populations with a rule that will severely reduce hunter opportunity, against department recommendations. While many of the driving factors leading up to the decisions were similar, the outcomes are likely to be polar opposites.


  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and our partners have been engaging closely in conversations concerning mountain lion harvest. This includes CSF Senior Coordinator of Northwest States Marie Neumiller’s past participation on a Cougar Focus Group in Washington State.
  • The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission focused on creating a mountain lion harvest that was sustainable for both mountain lions and ungulates while maintaining opportunities for sportsmen and women.
  • The Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission accepted a citizen-led petition focused on reducing the legal, regulated harvest instead of directly addressing their concerns around state led public safety removals.

In mid-June, both the Montana and Washington fish and wildlife Commissions received presentations on mountain lion harvest quotas. There were several similarities between both states; each Commission had increased harvest opportunities in recent years, and both states have ungulate populations that are at risk or below objective with mountain lions being cited as a potential limiting factor. Despite those similarities, the tenor and potential outcomes varied widely. Montana’s harvest guidelines were put forward by professionally trained staff at the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) as a part of their standard review process. Washington State’s harvest review was brought forward by a citizen petition that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) professionally trained staff had recommended against.

In 2023, the Montana Commission had adopted a 7% harvest increase and MFWP recommended maintaining that previous guideline with the exception of the west central region. The main topic of conversation during the MFWP Commission meeting was identifying harvest quotas that would be sustainable for both mountain lions and ungulates, especially where at-risk ungulate populations exist. As a part of their process of setting quotas, MFWP utilized the advice of the citizen-led Lion Ecoregion Population Objective Committee (LEPOC) to help guide the recommendations. After hearing from MFWP, members of LEPOC, and public commenters, the Commission voted to adopt MFWP’s recommended harvest quotas with a few minor amendments.

While the discussion at the Montana commission centered on harvest quotas that were sustainable for ecosystem balance, the Washington State Commission’s conversation focused solely on mountain lion populations and conflict removals. After adopting a citizen petition put forward by anti-predator hunting organizations the WDFW Commission went outside of their historical rule making processes and drafted the mountain lion harvest rule themselves, instead of allowing the department to complete that work. This deviation from standard procedures appears to have created a large divide within the Commission and with key stakeholders, including the sportsmen and women who support the WDFW’s efforts through the American System of Conservation Funding. The WDFW Commission’s proposal will count ALL human-caused mortality, including vehicle strikes and conflict removals, against the hunting harvest quota. This change in policy will likely lead to several Puma Management Units (PMU’s) reaching quotas and closing prior to the start of the hunting season each year, effectively eliminating mountain lion hunting opportunities in those PMUs for the foreseeable future.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation strongly advocates for management guided by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation while continuing to utilize sportsmen and women in their efforts to manage wildlife populations through legal, regulated hunting and trapping.

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