Analyses of national mountain lion harvest indices yield ambiguous interpretations.
Wildlife managers make difficult decisions about how best to ensure sustainable wildlife populations. This is especially contentious in the absence of accurate abundance data. Currently, many managers rely upon harvest metrics to monitor mountain lion abundance and to setmanagement objectives. We analysed mountain lion harvest data from 2005 to 2016 across 10U.S. states to determine mountain lionmetapopulation trends. Our results were ambiguous and suggested conflicting population trends. Three huntingmetrics indicated that the metapopulation was declining, twometrics could be interpreted as support for either an increasing or decreasing metapopulation and one metric indicated that the mountain lionmetapopulation was stable. This ambiguity may indicate that some metrics better reflect carnivore abundance than others or that harvest metrics are a poor method for monitoring carnivore abundance. This is a concern because ambiguity in population trends may also fuel conflict between different stakeholder groups with different views of mountain lions. To avoid future ambiguity and to mitigate dissension among stakeholders, state agencies might consider a collaborative integrated population model to monitor mountain lions at a national scale.