South Dakota GFP Considers Mountain Lion Season
One of the management objectives of the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department is maintaining a sustainable population of mountain lions in the Black Hills.
"We, like most South Dakotans, feel fortunate to have mountain lions as part of the Black Hills ecosystem," said Tony Leif, GFP game program administrator, during a discussion about the proposed 2007 mountain lion hunting season at the Game, Fish and Parks Commission's May meeting at Custer State Park.
Leif told commissioners that four different methods of estimating the number of lions in the Black Hills all point toward a population of more than 200 cats. Of that number, GFP estimates that about half are adult animals with 15 to 25 of them adult males and 75 to 80 breeding females.
With about five adult females per male, the Black Hills lion population has a healthy recruitment factor, Leif said. The department estimates that 50 percent of the adult females have young in a particular year, litters average 3.2 cubs and kitten survival rate is 60 percent. That all means the lion population is adding between 62 and 66 lions per year, Leif said.
All these factors led to a proposal to increase the harvest limit on lion to 35 in 2007. Under the proposal the season would end if 15 females were harvested. In 2006 the limits were a total of 25 lions or eight female lions. The 2006 season ended with the harvesting of the eighth female for a total of 16 lions. In the first season in 2005, the season ended with 13 lions harvested—six males and seven females.
Leif said if 15 females were harvested in the 2007 season, they would account for 20 percent of the estimated population. "That's well within harvest rates for maintaining a healthy sustainable lion population," Leif said.
The season proposed for 2007 would offer only one unit, combining the previous Black Hills and prairie units and establishing a statewide resident license. "Establishing a single statewide unit recognizes that we do have animals dispersing from the Black Hills," Leif said, though he added that maintaining a sustainable lion population on the prairie is not one of the department’s management objectives.
All lions taken during the season would need to be reported to a GFP representative for inspection within 24 hours of harvest.
The commission will conduct a public hearing regarding the proposed mountain lion season at its June 7 and 8 meeting at the Kings Inn in Pierre. A copy of the proposal the commission will consider can be accessed at http://www.sdgfp.info/Commission/Proposals.htm .
Citizens who would like to provide written comments on the mountain lion hunting season that is up for finalization may do so until 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 6. Those comments may be mailed to Game, Fish and Parks Commission, 523 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD 57501 or e-mailed to email@example.com. All comments must include the sender's full name and address in order to become part of the official record.
Comments may also be presented in person at the GFP Commission meeting during the public hearing which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, June 7.