- Texas Mountain Lions - Historical Overview
Mountain Lions used to inhabit the entire state of Texas. Early European settlers viewed predators, including the Mountain Lion, as a direct threat to their survival and their ability to raise livestock. As a result, measures for predator removal by any mean possible were implemented across North America.
From the early 1800’s until the mid 1960’s “predator control” measures were implemented. Documentation regarding the distribution and abundance of Mountain Lions throughout this period are scarce but an overall trend of population decline to almost total disappearance can be learned from the historical records.
In Texas, Cope (1880) stated that Mountain Lions were “common all over Texas,” and Attwater (1917) noted that, by the early 1890’s, [Mountain Lions] “are fast becoming killed out.” Bailey (1905) documented that there were Mountain Lions “in the rough and sparsely settled western part of the State” [of Texas], and Jones and Jackson (1941) stated that the species exists in small numbers.
In 1946, Young and Goldman published a report that examined Mountain Lion specimens across Texas. Most specimens were found in the Trans-Pecos and South Texas areas (Figure 3). It is unclear to what extent Young and Goldman attempted to obtain specimens from the entire state.
Figure 3: Distribution of Mountain Lion specimens
examined by Young and Goldman, 1946
(A blue star indicates a county where one or more Mountain Lion specimens were found.)
Methods of predator removal included poisoning, trapping, and the use of dogs. They were accomplished through private efforts and government encouragement and assistance, some involving bounty payments
CLICK HERE TO SEE A PHOTOGRAPH OF A KILLED MOUNTAIN LION IN EDWARDS COUNTY, TEXAS, 2007. THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS OF A GRAPHIC NATURE.
Beginning in the mid 1960’s, all western states with surviving lion populations, except Texas, began reclassifying the Mountain Lion as a game species, regulating the number of Mountain Lions killed per year.
Signs and sightings of Mountain Lions during that period were extremely rare. A combination of factors contributed to a reduction in the killing of Mountain Lions by the mid-1960’s allowing the species to slowly recover:: The failure of the sheep and goat industry, cessation of federally funded predator removal programs and the growing numbers of prey species such as deer, elk and moose .
Goldman (1946) indicated that due to Texas bordering Mexico, Mountain Lions will always be present, in some numbers in the state (Young and Goldman 1946). Roy McBride, a government trapper, recalls that Mountain Lions were extremely rare in Texas by the 1960’s. He explained how predator trappers would wait at known lion travel corridors on the Texas-Mexico border in the Big Bend area for Mountain Lions to explore the area so they could trap and kill them before they entered the state (McBride, Personal communication 2007).