Why Add Mountain Lions to Big Game Category?

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State Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) officials say there is confusion about a bill under consideration in the state legislature that would change the status of the mountain lion in South Dakota to that of a "big game" animal.

"The immediate intention is not to create a mountain lion hunting season," said Assistant Wildlife Director George Vandel. "Game, Fish and Parks data indicate that mountain lions no longer warrant listing as a state threatened species. While working on this issue, we found that the mountain lion would not be adequately protected under current law after it is delisted. Placing the mountain lion in the ‘big game’ category simply assures that once the species is removed from the state threatened-species list, it will still be protected from illegal taking. We felt it would be irresponsible to delist the mountain lion without the assurance that it would still have adequate legal protection."

Should a hunting season ever be warranted, Vandel indicated the department would base its lion management recommendations on strong, sound biological data and lots of public involvement.

"The department has been conducting several important lion studies and has learned much about lions in South Dakota as well as the state’s citizens’ opinions about the animal," he said. "There are still some critical biological questions to answer before we will proceed with any active management that may include a hunting season. We also understand and respect those who wish us to move fast on this issue. However, we do not intend to proceed with any premature move towards a season, without having the necessary social and biological information available. The change in status provided by this Legislation is only the first step."