It's time to manage mountain lions in Texas - by Mark Elbroch
Mountain lions, also called cougars, pumas and Florida panthers, are a wide-ranging, large felid in the western hemisphere. Every U.S. state in which there are breeding populations of mountain lions offer the species some level of protection, except Texas. Here, we summarize historical research on mountain lions in Texas, human perceptions about the species, and historical discussions within Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) about mountain lion management obtained via the Public Information Act (Texas Government Code, Ch. 552). To date, genetic research supports 2 distinct mountain lion populations, one west of the Pecos River and another in South Texas, which evidence suggests is suffering from isolation and is in immediate risk of extinction. Anthropogenic mortality rates in Texas are among the highest in the U.S., and well beyond the suggested harvest rates recommended to maintain stable mountain lion populations. Similarly, adult female mountain lion survival in Texas suggests that populations were likely declining when the studies were active. Internally, TPWD has repeatedly discussed initiating a mountain lion management policy, the benefits of requiring mandatory reporting for all mountain lion mortalities, as well as the unreliable nature of sightings data, which they have historically used as a metric for abundance. Public support, including among rural communities, is good for both mountain lions and TPWD.