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Livestock Don’t Have Nine Lives: SB22-031

Colorado Senate Bill 22-031, Prohibit Hunting Bobcat, Lynx and Mountain Lion, was introduced on January 12th, the first day the 2022 Colorado General Session. Sponsored by Sen Jaquez-Lewis, Sen Ginal, Rep Amabile and Rep Duran, this bill would effectively prohibit the management of wild cat populations across the state. It would also make it extremely difficult for ranchers to protect their livestock from wild cat depredation and would eliminate the state’s responsibility to prevent injury and provide compensation to ranchers for the loss of their livestock due to these pressures.

The biggest change in the bill would discontinue the use of hunting as a management tool for wild cats. Harvesting wild game is a time-tested method for the state to properly manage wildlife populations. The issuance of hunting tags allows for a specific use and are the result of scientific research and well-developed best practices to keep wildlife populations in-balance. Without this important tool, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) would have few options to control the health of the wild animals that our state is famous for. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union policy clearly supports Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s authority to administer best management practices and we oppose special interests using the Legislature to create these unwise changes. Without the ability for CPW to issue these hunting tags, wild cat populations will grow to an unsustainable level and push these populations into the rural-urban corridor as well as into conflict with farmers and ranchers. We oppose increasing wildlife populations at the expense of livestock and where agriculture could be adversely affected.

There is a small exemption for agriculture in the bill which allows a rancher to kill a mountain lion if it is immediately necessary to protect their livestock and then they must report the incident within a timely manner. Ranchers can submit a written request to prevent further depredation of livestock to CPW and include detailed info on each attack including: the species involved, precise location of each attack, the dates when each attack occurred, evidence that the attacks are on-going, pictures of the scene and of the injured or killed livestock. If CPW agrees to the evidence provided by the rancher, CPW can allow for the kill of that animal, but the bill prohibits the use of dogs to track the cat. This can make it almost impossible to find the cat that is responsible for the attacks. This puts an undue burden on the rancher without any plan of compensation.

In fact, the bill removes mountain lions from the definition of ‘Big Game’ thus removing any liability of the state to pay for damages caused by the cats. Our policy supports farmers and ranchers receiving equitable damages to livestock and loss of productivity due to wildlife and we encourage farmers and ranchers to have the ability to mitigate the impacts of predators to livestock.

Access to fair markets, the cost of inputs and outputs and increased regulations are making the operation of a viable livestock business increasingly difficult. This bill would only add to these challenges for family farmers and ranchers. We believe that new policy should be based on a documented problem and not on the whims of sentimentality. We should trust science for developing these policies and come together to find an equitable solution. RMFU will be actively engaged on this bill and others throughout the 2022 Legislative Session, keep an eye out for ways that you, as a RMFU member, can mobilize with us!

 

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The preceding statement is a RMFU staff interpretation of our member-driven policy.

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