(The Center Square) - A controversial bill that would have banned the hunting of mountain lions and bobcats in Colorado stalled in a legislative committee Thursday.
Senate Bill 22-031 sought to ban the "shooting, wounding, killing, or trapping" of the animals except in cases of self-defense and to protect livestock. It would also allow for law enforcement and veterinarians to kill the animals as long as they were "acting in the course of their duties."
The bill was postponed indefinitely by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in a 4-1 vote, with Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, voting against it.
Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, the bill's sole sponsor, was the only committee member to vote against postponing the legislation indefinitely.
"I chose to introduce this legislation after learnings that hundreds of mountain lions and thousands of bobcats are killed each year in Colorado and we have limited to zero understanding of the size of their populations," Lewis said during the hearing. "We don't know if bobcats and mountain lions are increasing or decreasing, but, the hunting fatality numbers are at a record-high."
According to the latest data from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the number of bobcats killed in Colorado increased from 644 in 2002 up to 1,924 by 2017. Hunting activity accounted for 40% of that total, according to the agency.
Three of the bill's original sponsors dropped their names from the legislation after its introduction, including Sen. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, who told The Center Square in an email earlier this week that while she has "long stood up for animal rights," the bill "does not have the support from folks on the ground, career wildlife management scientists, and advocacy groups it needs."
Aubyn Royall, Colorado state director for the Humane Society, said "it's incredibly frustrating to see the lack of legislative support for ending trophy hunting of iconic wild species in our state when we know that there is simply no scientifically defensible reason for this cruel practice and the vast majority of Colorado residents fundamentally oppose it."
The Sportsmen's Alliance, a hunting advocacy group, described the bill's defeat as a "big win for science-based wildlife management."
"In a show of unity and strength organizations and individuals came together at the state's capital to testify their opposition to the bill and their voices were heard," the organization said.