Thursday, September 29, 2005


Mountain lions have returned to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Over the last decade, mountain lions, which once existed as little more than rumors, have gained a foothold and established a sizeable population. Now state officials say that there are too many lions and have authorized South Dakota's first-ever mountain lion season. Already, over 1,000 licenses have been handed out.

Problem is, there are only an estimated 150 lions in the Black Hills. The entire population could be wiped out in a single hunting season. Mountain lions are already extinct in many neighboring states in the west; South Dakota does not need to add to that. In theory, the season will end when 25 lions are brought into the Rapid City Game Fish and Parks office. How realistic is that? With 1,000 hunters prowling around the hills and prairies on opening day, what are the odds that the kill will be no more than 25 lions? I've seen these guys hunt and fish. It's common practice to take well over your limit and simply conceal the extra.

It's true that because a mountain lion has such a large territory (300 sq miles), they have encroached into populated areas as their numbers grow. However, if it's becoming a problem, the GFP should partake its own controlled hunt to cull their numbers. Letting a bunch of hunters do the job for them will only cause overkill and destabilize a mountain lion population that's only now emerging from the brink of extinction.


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