South Dakota Mountain Lion Season was Quiet

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South Dakota's second mountain lion hunting season was quieter than the inaugural 2005 season.

"This year's season went much smoother in terms of the age, gender and breeding status of the animals harvested," said Tony Leif, game program administrator for the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department.

A major change in the second season was moving the season dates back to ensure that more cubs would be old enough to travel with their mothers. Regulations called for no harvest of cats who were accompanying each other. During the first season there was concern about the fate of kittens when breeding-age females were harvested.

How well the changes in the season structure worked will be determined by a survey sent out to mountain lion license holders. "The survey will tell if any hunters had to pass on a shot because of lions traveling together," Leif said.

The season in the Black Hills unit ended on Nov. 19 when the eighth and last female allowed to be harvested during the season was taken. The prairie season had no harvest limits and continued until the end of the year. This was the first year that a lion was harvested in the prairie unit with a rancher taking a 124-pound male lion in Fall River County in December.

In all, 16 lions were harvested during the 2006 season—one male in the prairie unit and seven males and eight females in the Black Hills unit. In 2005, six males and seven females were harvested in the Black Hills unit. In 2006 in the Black Hills unit there were 3,017 hunters licensed with an additional 286 licenses sold in the prairie unit. In the first season, 2,597 total licenses were sold.

"The hunter surveys and on-going research will help us determine what kinds of changes, if any, to recommend to the Game, Fish and Parks Commission at its May meeting," Leif said. Mountain lion research continues in the Black Hills with GFP setting a goal of having 50 lions equipped with radio collars so that their movements can be tracked.