Colorado’s Expanding Predator Populations Creating Pressure on Deer

Colorado’s Expanding Predator Populations Creating Pressure on Deer

Amidst Colorado’s maniacal push to reintroduce wolves, another problem is emerging: mountain lions. According to a recent report that went viral, a pack of mountain lions, or cougars, crossed a driveway in Denver. While mountain lions in the Centennial State are no surprise, considering it has the largest population of the big cats of any state, human-lion encounters appear to be on the rise, presenting increased public safety concerns.

As recently as 2022, a mountain lion “in excellent body condition … with fat abundant throughout the carcass,” was killed in Nederland, Colo., following an  opportunistic attack on a dog. According to the news reports, the dog was targeted due to the fact nearby ungulate populations were depleted.

In fact, the math regarding the number of mule deer killed by mountain lions supports such assertions. According to a 2021 study, mule deer make up a staggering 66 percent of mountain lion kills, with half of those deer being fawns. With an estimated 3,800 to 4,400 mature lions (not counting young lions) statewide, some put estimates of lion predation on deer in the state anywhere from 197,600 to 228,800 deer per year (assuming one per week per lion) from an estimated average population of a half-million deer.

Coloradans should ask themselves what they expect will happen if already-pressured deer are forced to contend with another apex predator on the landscape in the form of packs of wolves.

While animal rights extremists howl about the need to protect the charismatic mountain lion and reintroduce the wolf in the Centennial State, they sidestep public safety concerns over increased human-predator encounters.

As this website reported as far back as 2019, mountain lions are increasingly invading urban and suburban areas of Colorado, often in large packs with their young as they teach young lions to hunt near human settlements. In 2022, multiple mountain lion sightings again were reported in Denver, including outside a local REI store, an expensive retailer and purveyor of hiking packs. And, sadly, just this year a mountain lion was euthanized in Chaffee County, Colo., about 100 miles southwest of Denver, after attacking an 11-year-old girl who was on her way to her family’s chicken coop.

According to statements issued by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), no studies have been done to show the best course of action when meeting a mountain lion in the wild, but the state wildlife agency recommends you stay calm, try to appear larger, back away slowly and fight back if necessary. For more information on what to do if you encounter a lion, including information on who to contact following an encounter or attack and advice on precautions to take when living in mountain lion country, visit the CPW website by clicking here.

About the Author
Cody McLaughlin is a conservationist and conservative thought leader on public policy issues including hunting, fishing, gun rights, free-market tax and wage policy and the environment. He recently launched Trout Stream Studios as an executive producer for podcasts and livestreams in the hunting and veterans’ affairs spaces. He serves as an advertising consultant for conservative political causes, managing clients’ digital communications and online presence, and on the board of the Alaska Outdoor Council, the Last Frontier State’s NRA affiliate.