Thursday, October 22, 2009

South Dakota: Mountain lion killed in Deadwood city limits

Kevin Woster Journal staff - Posted: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 11:00 pm

A mountain lion was killed within the Deadwood city limits Wednesday morning after the big cat, and possibly another, apparently killed a deer in a backyard in town.

A South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department trapper killed one lion Wednesday, but the hunt wasn't over, because police reports early in the day indicated that two lions were in the area. GF&P placed four baited live traps in town in hopes that the other cat could be caught overnight Wednesday.

"Our trapper did euthanize one lion, and we're trying to determine what else we have out there," said John Kanta, GF&P regional game manager.

GF&P policy is, in most cases, to kill lions that venture into towns. It's a bit more complicated question in Deadwood, which is surrounded by steep, mountainous terrain that makes for perfect lion habitat, Kanta said.

"That's something we talked about. This isn't like downtown Rapid City. This is good lion habitat, very close to residential areas," he said. "But we were worried that this lion was exhibiting bold behavior in a pretty busy area, with barking dogs and vehicles and things. That was a bit alarming."

Kanta was called at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday with a report that a resident on Washington Street in Deadwood had seen a lion in his backyard about 10 feet from the door. Police responded and found the remains of a deer in the backyard. The next morning, officers returned and saw two lions, one slightly smaller than the other, Kanta said.

GF&P trapper Jack Alexander used lion hounds to track and tree the adult female lion. He shot the cat in a tree after noticing that it had clear signs of an eye infection or inflammation.

"Once the cat was ID'd as being visually impaired, we considered it to pose a pretty clear public safety issue," Kanta said. "So (Alexander) did go ahead and euthanize the lion."

The lion killed Wednesday did have an eye infection that appeared to be similar to an ailment seen in other cats, including a lion killed west of Custer a few weeks ago that was nearly blind.

"We describe it as cloudy eyes, but it's an inflammation or infection of the eye," Kanta said.

The Deadwood lion, a 5- to 6-year-old female, was still able to hunt and weighed 91 pounds, Kanta said. The Custer lion was very thin and clearly in poor health, he said.

If GF&P traps another lion in Deadwood, the next step will depend on the age of the lion and its ability to survive in the wild. It might be fitted with a radio collar and relocated. Or, if it's too young to survive, it could be taken, held and possibly placed in a zoo.

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or kevin.woster@rapidcityjournal.com

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

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