FWP's wildlife research personnel will conduct a telephone survey of lion hunting hound handlers in Montana beginning in late April to learn more about trends in mountain lion numbers.The survey of about 500 randomly selected hound handlers is one element of FWP's overall mountain lion research effort.
Mountain lions in Montana are under close study in a FWP research project.The study, located in the Garnet Mountain range, will help FWP develop survey techniques to track whether lion numbers in an area are going up or down.
"We will be trying to identify which informal indicators of mountain lion numbers tend to be the most reliable when there are actual changes in the number of lions," said Richard DeSimone, the FWP biologist responsible for the study.
The informal indicators are: density of lion tracks; lion observations by deer hunters; houndsmen's observations; lion hunting statistics; deer and elk surveys and lion DNA sampling.
To test the indicators, lions in the research area have been radio collared and hunting was suspended for three years starting in 2000.By tracking the population increase when hunting is not a factor and the subsequent decrease when hunting is allowed again, and comparing this data to what the informal indicators say, researchers will identify those that most closely reflect actual population changes.
"Today mountain lions can be found in all of Montana's ecosystems," DeSimone said."Populations are stabilizing in western Montana, while in central and eastern portions of the state we expect lions to increase."