Thursday, April 06, 2006

SD Commission proposes second mountain lion season

SD Commission proposes second mountain lion season



Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. - After hearing that the Black Hills has a thriving mountain lion population, the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Thursday proposed that South Dakota hold its second mountain lion hunting season this fall.


George Vandel, assistant state wildlife director, said the Black Hills mountain lion population appears to be larger than previously thought, with at least 165 lions in the area.


"The bottom line is our mountain lion population is strong," Vandel told the commission.


The season proposed by the commission Thursday would be changed slightly from last year to mesh more closely with the deer hunting season and to reduce the chances that hunters will shoot mothers with kittens.


The commission will make a final decision on the season after holding a public hearing during its May 4-5 meeting in Rapid City.


South Dakota's first mountain lion season caused a lot of controversy; some critics argued it could endanger the Black Hills lion population. Wildlife officials said the mountain lion population has been growing, which has forced some younger cats to leave the Black Hills and take off across the western South Dakota prairie.


Last year's season allowed for 25 mountain lions to be shot, but the season was closed early when the quota of five breeding-age females was reached. Thirteen cats were shot - six males, five breeding-age females and two sub-adult females.


This year's proposed season would start a month later on Nov. 1 and run through Dec. 31. A total of 25 lions could be shot, but the season would end early if eight females of any age are killed.


An unlimited number of mountain lion licenses would be available for the Black Hills, but only to South Dakota residents. An unlimited number of licenses also would be available to landowners outside the Black Hills.


The later season would give Black Hills deer hunters a chance to pursue mountain lions, Vandel said. Last year's season ended before deer hunters took to the field, he said.


Vandel said the later season also would mean more cubs are older and have left the den. Hunters then could see that a mother had cubs and avoid shooting her, and hunters would encounter fewer females defending den sites, he said.


Hunters could use all guns and archery equipment that are allowed for deer hunting. Dogs, traps and bait are not allowed for mountain lion hunting in South Dakota.


Wildlife officials said earlier information indicated the Black Hills had the capacity to hold only about 145 mountain lions, but new research shows the area can hold 165-210 cougars. Other research indicates the population is within that range of 165-210, they said.


The commission on Thursday briefly discussed a policy the Game, Fish and Parks Department has developed for dealing with orphaned wildlife. The department rescued six kittens after two female lions were killed during the Black Hills season last year.


Gov. Mike Rounds encouraged wildlife officials to find the kittens. One litter of three kittens went to a zoo in Philadelphia. The other three kittens are at South Dakota State University where they will be part of a research study.


The rescue broke from general wildlife management principles and traditional state policy to focus on managing wildlife populations and not individual animals.


The protocol says orphaned young animals can be transferred for permanent placement in captive facilities, such as zoos, if certain conditions are met.


Those conditions include requirements that a facility has requested the available animal, the facility is accredited and its primary mission is public viewing and education. Wildlife officers also must have sufficient evidence the young animal's parent has been killed, the baby would not survive alone in the wild, it could be successfully converted to captive life, and it could be recovered from the wild with a minimum risk to the animal and a reasonable effort by department staff.


For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

Sign our petition here:


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