Texas farmers, ranchers and landowners may continue to use traps and other approved hunting techniques to protect their livestock from mountain lions.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently denied a petition by Texans for Mountain Lions that asked for bag limits, mandatory harvest reporting, required 36-hour trap checks and additional research on the elusive wildcats.
“Agency staff have reviewed the petition and recommended a denial of the specific regulatory actions to allow time for adequate stakeholder engagement and input,” Jonah Evans, TPWD non-game and rare species program leader, told the Parks and Wildlife Commission. “There were concerns the mandated deadlines that accompany the petition would be too restrictive considering the complexity of mountain lion policy and the need to fully engage most impacted stakeholders. We recommend including affected landowners, land managers, academics, subject matter specialists and representatives of key stakeholder groups.”
Texans for Mountain Lions asked the department to conduct a statewide study to identify the abundance, status and distribution of mountain lions in Texas.
The commission did approve creation of the stakeholder working group at its Aug. 25 meeting.
The group is expected to include representatives from hunting, wildlife conservation, livestock, outdoor recreation and animal welfare organizations, along with independent biologists and other experts.
Evans noted there’s still a lot not known about mountain lions in Texas.
“There’s limited research on mountain lions in Texas, as studies on elusive animals with large territories that range across multiple private lands can be difficult and costly,” Evans said. “Also, competing priorities from more imperiled species limits the amount of available research funding.”
In 2011, a PhD project at Texas A&M University-Kingsville compared historic and modern mountain lion genetic samples.
“They found that historic samples revealed a 10-20% decline in genetic diversity for South Texas,” Evans said. “The authors state that the effective size of the southern Texas population declined greater than 50%, whereas the size of the western Texas population remained large and stable over time.”
The findings suggest the South Texas population of mountain lions is relatively isolated with little inflow of mountain lions from other areas. So, they lack in genetic diversity.
“Genetic data indicates there is some reason to be concerned about the South Texas population,” he said. “Low genetic diversity suggests a declining population with little immigration from other areas.”
A study from the Borderlands Research Institute in 2012 revealed South Texas averaged 1.1 mountain lions per 100,000 acres. West Texas averaged 1.7 per 100,000 acres.
“The Trans-Pecos population appears to be persisting with harvest rates varying by landowner,” Evans said. “While research in Big Bend Ranch State Park and the Davis Mountains reports heavy harvest and low annual rates of survival, the continued persistence of these populations suggests they are supported by immigration from neighboring source populations.”
In Texas, mountain lions were labeled a non-game species by the legislature, meaning there is no closed season, bag limit or possession limit.
They can be hunted at any time by any lawful means or methods.
Texas Farm Bureau supports classifying the mountain lion as a predator rather than a game animal.