Most of the wildlife-related bills introduced in the Oklahoma 2021 Legislative Session that I’ve been watching haven’t shown much recent movement. The Bigfoot hunting season, HB 1648, that I wrote about last week is still pending in the House Rules Committee.

I’ve also been watching HB 2639, which would create the Protecting Oklahoma Families from Feral Hogs Act of 2021. That bill is also in the House Rules Committee. SB769 would authorize the Department of Wildlife Conservation to declare an open mountain lion season lottery.

Information from the wildlife department says that mountain lions in Oklahoma are rare, but sightings do occur because they are a transient species in the state. An interesting answer on their website to the question “Do we have mountain lions here or not?” is “Yes, sometimes.”

Mountain lions are also sometimes called cougars, pumas, panthers, painters or catamounts.

 “Sightings and evidence of cougars have been documented back to 1852, where two cougars were killed in southwest Oklahoma. Accounts continued into 1953 when an Oklahoma State University mammologist documented tracks of a mountain lion southeast of Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma. Further reports continued into September of 1984, where the refuge manager observed a mountain lion on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge,” said information on wildlifedepartment.com.

Hundreds of recorded sightings have been reported to the wildlife department, but less than 30 have yielded enough physical evidence to confirm the presence of a mountain lion in the state. The nearest states with documented populations are Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and South Dakota. The wildlife department has determined that Oklahoma has wandering individuals, not populations.

Currently, Oklahoma’s Wildlife Code protects mountain lions from indiscriminate shooting, but also allows citizens to protect themselves and property. The code states, “Mountain lions can be taken year-round when committing or about to commit depredation on any domesticated animal or when deemed an immediate safety hazard. Individuals who kill a mountain lion must immediately call a game warden or other Department employee. The carcass (including hide) will be examined by a Department employee within 24 hours for biological data collection, which may include the removal of a tooth.”

A few other bills include SB812, which relates to the surrender of certain licenses to the Department of Wildlife upon conviction of certain crimes and by court order; SB829 would require state agencies with jurisdiction over parcels of land containing 80 or more acres to provide permanent fencing for such land; and SB839 which would prohibit game wardens from placing or using game and wildlife cameras on private property without permission from the property owner or a valid warrant issued by a judge.

There are about 35 total wildlife-related bills that were introduced for the 2021 session. All of the bills can be followed at legiscan.com/OK.

OUTDOOR TRAILS & TALES