Saturday, January 10, 2009

EDITORIAL: S.D. cougar hunt should start with education

Lion hunt should start with education

By the Journal Editorial Board

Earlier this week, a hunter in the Spearfish area shot and killed a 46-pound, lightly spotted mountain lion kitten. Before that, a mountain lion female with two dependent kittens was killed.

The mountain lion season started Jan. 1. A lot can go wrong in just a few days.

These two incidences have one similarity: Neither one should have taken place.

While Game, Fish & Parks called the Spearfish-area kill “an honest mistake” and issued a warning to the unnamed hunter, we’d call it a mistake brought on by lack of education and therefore unnecessary.

The solution is simple and one already embraced by neighboring states — mandatory education. It seems clear South Dakota Game Fish & Parks should require a mountain lion education course for hunters prior to issuing a mountain lion license.

This year, 1,600 mountain lion licenses were sold in South Dakota. That’s half of what was sold last year — the reason being the mountain lion season was moved and now doesn’t overlap with deer and elk seasons.

That’s good. Moving the season separated the hunters who bought a mountain lion license just in case they would cross one while hunting other prey from the hunters who specifically chose to participate in the mountain lion season.

Hunters who take part in the specialty hunt — mountain lions — should take the extra time to understand the fine points of the lion hunt and be aware of the GF&P mountain lion management plan.

A basic education course might have stopped the Spearfish area hunter from pulling the trigger on the small kitten. Even if the spots were light, the size of the animal (even at 150 yards) should have sent up red flags with the hunter. And the female with kittens might have been spared if the hunter was aware of the kittens nearby.

Again, education.

The mountain lion season runs into March or until a total of 35 lions or 15 females are killed. That’s not a great numbers of mountain lions so it’s important the hunt is properly managed to meet GF&P mountain lion management expectations.

Mandatory mountain lion education is hardly a fresh idea. Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a comprehensive mountain lion identification course strongly recommended for hunters.

And Colorado, before issuing a license, has a mandatory mountain lion identification course.

South Dakota should follow Colorado’s lead.

A mandatory mountain lion education course for state hunters would lead to a better hunt, fewer unnecessary kills and better mountain lion management in the Black Hills.


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