GF&P OKs plan to kill more mountain lionsDEADWOOD — After months of deliberations and several rounds of public meetings, the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission made its final decision Friday morning on the 2013 season for hunting mountain lions.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
DEADWOOD — After months of deliberations and several rounds of public meetings, the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission made its final decision Friday morning on the 2013 season for hunting mountain lions.
Without debate, the commissioners agreed they want more lions killed in the Black Hills during the coming season. Hunters will be allowed to harvest up to 100 lions from the Black Hills, with a maximum of 70 female lions.
The use of dogs also will be allowed in Custer State Park for hunters holding special permits, and hunters holding valid licenses will be allowed to take mountain lions all year outside of the Black Hills.
“Definitely not easy decisions,” chairman Jeff Olson, of Rapid City, said after the unanimous vote. He said commissioners spent many hours in recent months considering the plan.
The finish to the long process was quiet and almost anti-climactic. The meeting room Friday morning was much emptier than the packed house for the public hearing Thursday afternoon that drew testimony from more than two dozen people who spoke for more than an hour combined. None of the people on hand for the vote Friday appeared to have been present Thursday.
An unusual twist surfaced Friday during the Wildlife Division’s final presentation on the expanded limits.
The statewide season outside the Black Hills technically would open in December, on whatever day the rules take official effect under the state government’s administrative process.
Hunters holding 2012 licenses could use those for the remainder of this year, according to Wildlife Division director Tony Leif. There won’t be a harvest limit on lions taken outside the Black Hills.
For the Black Hills, the 100 limit and 70 sub-quota are increases from the 2012 harvest limits of 70 lions total and 50 females. Hunters killed 73, with one reported a day late to leave the season open a 51st day. Three lions were taken on that final day.
GF&P biologists estimated there were about 300 lions heading into the 2012 season and there will be 240 lions heading into the 2013 season. If 100 lions are taken by hunters in the 2013 season, there would be an estimated 180 lions heading into the 2014 season.
On Thursday, 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.