(The Center Square) - A bill introduced by Colorado Democrats that proposes a ban on hunting mountain lions, bobcats and lynx in the state has generated swift opposition from hunting organizations and support from animal welfare groups.
Senate Bill 22-031, which was introduced last week by four Democratic lawmakers, would prohibit the "shooting, wounding, killing, or trapping" of mountain lions, bobcats, or Canadian lynx, a species that doesn't currently have a hunting season and is federally protected.
SB 22-031 allows exceptions in cases of self-defense or when "necessary to protect livestock." It also would allow the killing of animals by peace officers or veterinarians "acting in the course and scope" of their duties, as well as by local health departments, and zoos, when deemed necessary.
Following the bill's introduction, environmental groups and animal rights groups pledged support, while hunting and trapping organizations panned it.
The Humane Society and the Mountain Lion Foundation support the ban, citing a December 2020 survey that found 72% of respondents in Colorado oppose trophy hunting for mountain lions.
Logan Christian, a conservation advocate with the Mountain Lion Foundation, said in a statement that "hunting disturbs the social structure of mountain lions and other wild cats, often exacerbating conflicts between these species and humans."
"Colorado's wild cats already face mounting threats from highways, urban expansion and climate change. Removing hunting as an additional source of mortality will help protect the long-term persistence of these species," Christian added.
Hunting groups such as the Sportsman's Alliance and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) are opposing SB 22-031, which is now in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
"Colorado hunters have been under attack by animal-rights activists for years," Brian Lynn, vice president of communications for the Sportsmen's Alliance, said in a statement. "This bill isn't just a Colorado issue, and it's not just a predator-hunting issue. Senate Bill 22-0331 is an issue for every deer and elk hunter in Colorado, and for every non-resident hunter who has dreamed, saved money for and plans to hunt the state in the future."
BHA said the legislation "is not guided by science" and "would chip away at the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, a model that BHA strongly supports.
"Healthy wildlife populations depend on decision-making guided by the best science available to wildlife professionals," the organization said.
The bill's sponsors in the Colorado Senate, Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, and Sen. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, did not respond to a request for comment.