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Cougar Estimates Criticized By Montana Hunters

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Mountain lion hunters in northwestern Montana say state Fish, Wildlife and Parks estimates of the lion population in the Bitterrott Valley are too high.

During a meeting in Helena last week, the hunters criticized proposed lion quotas for the next two seasons.

Under the proposal, lion quotas would be raised in 37 hunting districts in Montana. In two northwestern Montana hunting districts, the quota would be reduced by four.

The Bitterroot Valley has been under scrutiny because of declining elk populations blamed on a predator-rich environment that includes mountain lions, bears and wolves.

Hunters in the area tell the Billings Gazette that there are few big cats left.

State Wildlife Bureau chief Quentin Kujala says the agency's population study is undergoing peer review, which could provide more clarity.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, www.billingsgazette.com

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