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Web posted Friday, June 11, 2004

Mountain Lion Hunting Season In S.D.?

RAPID CITY (AP) -- A member of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission says his panel might need to discuss whether a mountain lion hunting season is needed.

On Tuesday outside Spearfish, officials shot and killed a mountain lion that was suspected of killing pets in the area. Carcasses of two domestic cats and a deer were found in the area where the cat was spotted.

ŒŒI think we've got to give it a lot of consideration, and pretty soon,'' said Merton Clarkson of Buffalo. ŒŒThere's a pretty good chance of a public outcry. If we propose a season, we'll have a real busy meeting.''

Clarkson said the idea of a hunting season is more pertinent because of more lion attacks on pets and encounters between people and lions, both in the Black Hills and on the Plains.

In Nebraska, the state's Game and Parks Commission this year adopted a new mountain lion response plan. The 12-page document formalizes protocol for responses to situations involving mountain lions as well as guidelines for taking, investigating and classifying those reports.

The plan was formed to address the increasing number of confirmed sightings. Mountain lions had not turned up in Nebraska for more than a century until a deer hunter in the Pine Ridge area killed one in 1991.

Since then, the commission has confirmed 12 sightings, although there have been dozens more sightings reported.

Mountain lions -- also known as cougars and pumas -- became a protected species under Nebraska law in 1995 and can't be hunted, but they can be killed if they are threatening livestock or the safety of others.

Biologists believe mountain lions are roaming from higher density areas in the Rocky Mountains and Black Hills to make their way into Nebraska and Iowa.

In South Dakota, biologists with the state parks commission think there are about 150 mountain lions in the Black Hills National Forest and others scattered across the Plains.

Two Rapid City residents said they saw lions in separate locations near Skyline Drive in the city this week.

Lions have been reported across western South Dakota, including the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, where animal control officer Lars Lind has seen tracks and heard sighting reports.

ŒŒYou bet they're here,'' he said Wednesday. ŒŒSome people are concerned about their children's safety. We tell them to keep an eye on their kids and their pets.''

Lions in South Dakota are protected except under a special state permit for problem animals.

To set a season, the GF&P commission first would have to publicize its proposal and collect comments at a public hearing.

Clarkson said he expects to hear from lion hunting opponents if a season is proposed. ŒŒThere's a lot of concern on both sides,'' he said.


On the Net:

GF&P brochure on living in lion country and how to react to a lion encounter:

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