By Bob Mercer
Black Hills Pioneer
YANKTON -- South Dakota hunters would be allowed to kill more mountain lions next year in the Black Hills than in any previous season, under a new proposal made Friday by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
The latest plan calls for keeping the season open until hunters take 25 female lions or 40 lions total.
That would be an adjustment upward from the proposal made just a month ago that would have put the limits at 20 females or 35 lions total.
The limits last season were 15 females or 35 lions total.
South Dakota's system calls for the season to close if the female quota is reached before the overall limit.
The female quota has been filled first each of the past three seasons.
The 2009 season ended with 26 lions, 15 females and 11 males, killed by hunters.
The commissioners will take additional public comments and are scheduled to make a decision on the limits for next season at their next meeting July 1 in Pierre.
Commissioner Tim Kessler of Aberdeen offered the upward adjustments Friday. None of the eight commissioners opposed the change.
"This has been a moving target for years and years," Kessler said. "Now the big question is how many is enough, and we'll have to work through that."
No one from the public was present for the discussion Friday morning, although the mountain lion season was listed on the agenda. No one appeared in person to testify Thursday afternoon at the advertised public hearing.
The commission received a mixture of written comments from citizens in the past month.
Those 14 opinions fell into two categories: people opposed to increasing the limits; and people wanting a larger harvest because they sense the lion population is growing. One writer suggested increasing the total kill to 35, another to 50.
"We are not going to annihilate a population of mountain lions by adding five females to the quota for one year," Kessler said.
Commissioner Susan Knippling of Gann Valley asked GF&P Secretary Jeff Vonk for his opinion. He didn't take a strong position either way. The state Wildlife Division had recommended the original proposal of increasing to 20 females but keeping the overall limit at 35.
"You're right behind us," Knippling kidded him.
"I'm certainly not in front of you," Vonk replied.
The next season would open Jan. 1, 2010.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org