KALISPELL (Mark R Thorsell) — Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are starting to accept public comments on a wide-ranging plan to monitor and manage mountain lions in Western Montana.
For the past 25 years, the state has developed an extensive system of field research which has helped to drive Montana’s approach to managing the big cats. And now the agency has developed a draft “Montana Mountain Lion Monitoring and Management Strategy”, which aims to keep a sustainable population of mountain lions in the coming years.
The plan includes details on how FWP will monitor and study mountain lions going forward. But more importantly, it proposes establishing four “Lion Ecoregions” in Northwest, West Central and Southwest Montana. The idea is to manage the cats using the larger land areas they need for a stable population, thereby reducing some of the “uncertainty” about hunting and its impacts on the mountain lion population.
In Northwest Montana, FWP staff will present the draft plan at a public information meeting Thursday night starting at 7 p.m. at the agency’s Region 1 headquarters in Kalispell. Other informational meetings are also expected.
Written comments will be accepted until Jan. 11, with the Fish and Wildlife Commission expected to take action on the plan in January. Online comments are also being accepted.
The draft strategy doesn’t lay out any specific population targets or hunting recommendations, but is a set of guidelines FWP would use in the years to come.
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Mark R Thorsell