FWP News: MOUNTAIN LION POPULATION MONITORING PLANNED FOR LITTLE BELT MOUNTAINS SOUTH OF GREAT FALLS
By angelamontana

Posted: December 7, 2022

GREAT FALLS – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists and experienced houndsmen will be conducting field work this winter in the Little Belt and Castle Mountains south of Great Falls to help estimate the number and density of mountain lions in the area. The work is part of a statewide research strategy to monitor and manage Montana’s lion populations.

The research is scheduled to run from December 12 through mid-April 2023, and is part of FWP’s mountain lion monitoring and management strategy adopted in 2019, using genetic samples to make periodic population estimates of lions in different management ecoregions of the state. FWP is in its fourth year of this new population monitoring strategy, and this year’s work will be the second of two estimates conducted in the west-central lion ecoregion, focused upon FWP Regions 4 and 5.

To collect data, FWP biologists and local houndsmen use trained dogs to track, tree and dart mountain lions to take DNA samples that will be combined with other information to help biologists estimate lion numbers. Hunter harvest data, including DNA from lion districts 405, 411, 413, 416, 418, 419, 420, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 452, 535, 540 and 580 will also be collected this winter. Hunter-harvested lions taken from one of these areas will have genetic samples taken when the lion is checked-in by FWP.

Over time, FWP will be able to use these population estimates, along with more than 25 years of field research data and annual harvest information to guide lion management decisions. This new monitoring program will improve Montana’s ability to understand the effects of lion harvest and help biologists to manage lion numbers at levels that maintain viable populations that remain in balance with other wildlife species and various public interests.

For more information, contact FWP field research lead, Alissa Anderson at Alissa.anderson@mt.gov

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