GF&P ponders bigger harvest of mountain lions this seasonDEADWOOD — The foremost advocate for sustaining the Black Hills population of mountain lions and the executive director for South Dakota’s leading sportsmen’s group took the same side Thursday in speaking against major expansions of the 2013 hunting season.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
DEADWOOD — The foremost advocate for sustaining the Black Hills population of mountain lions and the executive director for South Dakota’s leading sportsmen’s group took the same side Thursday in speaking against major expansions of the 2013 hunting season.
But also among the 31 people who testified at the hour-plus public hearing held by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission were plenty of Black Hills hunters who supported increasing the season harvest limit to 100 from the 70 that was in effect for 2012.
One was Jeb Bordewyk of Black Hawk, who said he documented eight lions around his home in September alone and added that neighbors told him two lions were in his backyard recently while he was away.
“Let’s take it to 200 and see what happens,” Bordewyk said.
The eight commissioners plan to reach a decision today on their proposal. The state Wildlife Division recently increased its estimated population of lions in the Black Hills to 300, up about 100 from its previous position, and the commission has set a goal of 150.
The 2012 harvest from the Black Hills was actually 73 lions taken in 51 days. The 70th lion was reported to the Wildlife Division one day after it was killed. Hunters have 24 hours to report. That extended the season another day, and three more lions were taken before dark.
The proposals for 2013 call for the main Black Hills season to start Dec. 26, 2012, and run until either 100 lions or 70 female lions are reported killed. Custer State Park would be opened much wider to hunting, including the first-time legal use of dogs.
The prairie season outside of the Black Hills fire district would be open year-round with unlimited harvest, although hunters would remain limited to one lion apiece.
The 73 lions taken in 2012 included 26 males and 47 females. The commission has repeatedly increased the annual limit, and the harvest has gone up as a result, from 13 in 2005 to 49 in 2011.
The hearing Thursday wasn’t as fiery or showy as some in past years for the lion season, but the emotions seemed to run just as strongly on all sides during the three minutes each speaker was allowed.
An estimated 70 people crowded into the meeting room in the basement of the Cadillac Jack’s casino and hotel complex. There were occasional criticisms of the commission and the state biologists from a variety of sides, including accusations of conspiracies and political decisions.
Custer veterinarian Sharon Seneczko, as has been her norm through the years, cooly stuck to facts and logic, although later she was taunted by another speaker who favored killing more lions.
Among her points was that the year-round prairie season will make it easier for people to poach lions from the Black Hills after the harvest limit is reached.
Chris Hesla, executive director for the sportsmen-oriented South Dakota Wildlife Federation, testified against the expansions, too. He spoke against the year-round season in general and against the use of dogs as a violation of the principle of fair chase. “We do not believe the mountain lion should be treated as a varmint,” Hesla said.
One complaint among hunters, however, is that lions are eating too many deer, elk, sheep and goats in the Black Hills. A hunter estimated Thursday that a population of 300 lions would have eaten more than 13,000 deer during one year.