South Dakota Mountain Lion Population Estimate Revised

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Data indicates that South Dakota's mountain lion population in the Black Hills continues to be healthy.

Last year the mountain lion population in South Dakota was estimated between 165 and 210 animals. "Revised estimates indicate the mountain lion population is on the upper end, if not slightly above that range," said Tony Leif, game program administrator for the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department.

That estimate is more than just a good guess, according to Leif, who notes that GFP biologists used four different approaches to modeling the population. "Estimating populations is by no means an exact science, especially when you're dealing with a population that is as secretive as mountain lions," Leif said. "The ongoing research being conducted by South Dakota State University is invaluable to these population estimates." The department and SDSU are continually monitoring the lion population with 47 lions fitted with transmitters.

Of the state's lion population, half are adults and half are dependent young. "Research data indicate that the population is highly productive with an annual rate of recruitment of about 60 animals," Leif said.

At its May 10 and 11 meeting in Custer State Park, the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Commission will consider a proposal for setting the state's third consecutive mountain lion hunting season.