Mountain Lion Research Continues

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Although the mountain lion hunting season is over and South Dakota State University researcher Dan Thompson is in his final year of data collection, mountain lions continue to be a high priority for both he and Game, Fish and Parks.

While Thompson is wrapping up data collection on mountain lion dispersal, he and GFP biologists are not winding down. Instead, they are out in hot pursuit of new mountain lions to mark with radio transmitting collars.

“We have set a goal of collaring 30 new mountain lions, which if achieved, would give us a total of 50 collared lions by the end of this winter,” said GFP Wildlife Program Administrator Tony Leif.

Last summer, GFP and SDSU worked out a one-year extension to Thompson’s project to ensure that adequate monitoring occurred during the 2005 mountain lion hunting season. “Dan’s field work will be completed this coming summer, but SDSU and GFP plan to extend their mountain lion research partnership with the implementation of a new project aimed at an in-depth evaluation of cougar mortality in the Black Hills,” Leif said. “Of particular interest is the relationship between different causes of mountain lion deaths and how these deaths affect incidents of lion depredation and lion sightings.”

This means that mountain lion research in the Black Hills will continue for at least three more years. In the meantime, GFP has begun developing and testing techniques to monitor mountain lion populations without the use of radio transmitters, because eventually, mountain lion research will conclude.

The new graduate student is scheduled to begin work in July 2006 and will spend two months learning the ropes from Thompson before taking over the reigns of the Black Hills cougar research.