Sunday, January 31, 2010

Few cougars killed during hunting season on N.D. reservation

JANUARY 31, 2010

NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) -- Despite a rise in cougar sightings on the Fort Berthold Reservation, hunters have had limited success killing the cats since a special hunting season was launched three years ago, a wildlife official said.

Hunters killed two of the reclusive mountain lions on the reservation in December, the only ones since the season began in September, said Fred Poitra, game and fish director for Three Affiliated Tribes.

The mountain lion season was started in 2007 after reports of a cougar trailing two people for a time, and another incident where a horse was attacked. Poitra said cougar sightings have increased since then at the million-acre reservation in west-central North Dakota.

"They are definitely migrating here but from where, we don't know," Poitra said. "They travel great distances."

This month, people reported seeing a female cougar and her kittens eating a deer carcass near a home in New Town, which is on the reservation. The cougars appeared to have been feasting on the kill for days, he said. But professional hunters using dogs lost the cougars' tracks and scent once the cats left the city.

In the first cougar hunting season, a young female lion was killed illegally on the reservation, after the season had closed. Poitra said one cougar was caught in a trap in 2010. Another cougar was found frozen in Lake Sakakawea two years ago, he said. The quota of five has never been met.

The reservation has issued about 100 licenses this season to non-tribal members, who have come from across the country to hunt the cougars, Poitra said. While state law says only North Dakota residents may hunt mountain lions, tribes can establish their own hunting regulations on their land.


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