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Legislator pulls plug on controversial cougar bill

The sponsor of a bill taking away state oversight of mountain lions pulled the plug on it today, killing the legislation for the session.

The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee tabled the bill indefinitely without debating it at the request of its sponsor, Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso.

The bill would have taken away management by the Department of Game and Fish of New Mexico’s estimated 4,000 cougars.

They instead would have been treated like other unprotected species such as coyotes or skunks, with no limits on hunting or trapping them.

There was broad resistance to the legislation from hunting and sportsmen’s groups, conservation and wildlife organizations, and animal rights groups.

Cook told the Journal he remains concerned about reports from farmers and ranchers about livestock lost to cougars, and the risk the predators pose to people.

But he said he would work with the department to find ways to address the problem without ending the agency’s management of the animals.