GF&P reviews lion hunting season
The Associated Press - Saturday, March 07, 2009
Information from this year's hunting season on mountain lions will be used by state game officials to make a recommendation for next year's season to the Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
This year's season lasted 45 days and ended when a sub-quota of 15 female lions was reached. Hunters also killed 11 male lions in the Black Hills.
The GF&P uses the lions killed during the season as part of its research.
"That is the nice thing about the harvest we get. We use it as yet another way to estimate our population," said John Kanta, regional wildlife manager for the department. "We can look at the number of radio-collared animals out there during the harvest and look at the number of radio-collared animals that were harvested and do some statistical analysis and come up with an estimate of the population."
Five radio-collared lions were shot this year, but two radios were not working. The GF&P will use only the three functioning collars from harvested lions and information from the approximately 60 other collared lions in the Hills to help estimate the population.
Before the season began, officials estimated the mountain lion population at 250, "plus or minus 30."
This year's season began later - Jan. 1 - and ran by itself. Previous seasons ran concurrent with deer or elk hunting seasons.
"One of the things we observed this season was that hunters were able to be more selective and target lions specifically rather than go out alongside another season and incidentally shoot one," Kanta said. "A lot were looking for big tracks so they could target an adult male. I think that had to do with the sex and age makeup of the harvest this year. We had a lot of bigger and older toms (males) come in this year as opposed to previous years."
Three lion kittens estimated to be 5-7 months old were killed by hunters. Hunters are prohibited from shooting lions with spotted coats, which are considered kittens. The spotting begins to disappear at 6 to 8 months of age.
One hunter was issued a warning for shooting a very lightly spotted kitten, and Kanta said the other two kittens had fainter spots. When the hunters brought the cats into the GF&P for the mandatory check-in, officials had to mat the hair down while on the lab table to see the spotting.
Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org