Changes in South Dakota's Mountain Lion Season

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A significant change in South Dakota's mountain lion hunting season is designed to protect cubs from being orphaned. At its June meeting in Pierre, the Game, Fish and Parks Commission adopted rules for a mountain lion hunting season that runs from Jan. 1 through March 31. Last year's mountain lion hunting season began on Nov. 1.

GFP Game Program Administrator Tom Kirschenmann explained to commissioners that the change in season dates was implemented to reduce the chances of mountain lion cubs from being orphaned. Research on mountain lion litters in South Dakota shows that January, February and March are the months when lion cubs are least likely to be orphaned due to few litters being born during that time frame.

"Moving the season's dates will minimize the opportunity for having orphans that are 3 months of age or younger," Kirschenmann said.

The later start to the mountain lion hunting season means that it will no longer overlap with the elk and Black Hills deer hunting seasons, quite likely cutting down on the number of licenses sold. Department personnel credit some of the 4,000 mountain lion hunting licenses sold last year to elk and deer hunters who bought the mountain lion license just in case they saw one of the big cats while out hunting.

Commissioners also adopted two other rule changes in the season. One allows the commission to extend the season beyond March 31 if the harvest limit has not yet been met. The other change allows properly-licensed landowners located outside the Black Hills Fire Protection District to hunt mountain lions year-round on their own land or private leased land.

The season retains many regulations from previous years including the harvest limit of 35 lions or 15 female lions, the restriction that no lion accompanied by another lion may be harvested, the use of electronic calls and the need for lions taken in the Black Hills to be presented to a GFP department representative within 24 hours of harvest.