New SD mountain lion season brings expanded quotasRAPID CITY (AP) — Wednesday marked the start of an expanded mountain lion season for hunters in the Black Hills.
RAPID CITY (AP) — Wednesday marked the start of an expanded mountain lion season for hunters in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission has set a quota of 100 lions, the most in the seven years of lion seasons. The quotas have been gradually increased primarily to protect elk, deer and big game.
The season is scheduled through March but will end early if 100 lions are killed or if 70 females are killed.
Jeff Olson, a member of the Game Fish and Parks Commission, tells the media the final tally for 2013 will be part of the debate for future quotas.
"If we don't get 100 lions, some people will say it's a sign the population is lower. Of course, some people will say we didn't structure the season right, or the weather was bad," Olson said. "But they'll be talking about it. I honestly don't know if we'll get 100."
Seventy-three lions were killed last year in two months. That included the set quota of 70 and three additional lions taken before all hunters learned the limit had been filled. Some hunters argued that reaching the quota so quickly was a sign that the lion population was larger than biologists estimated.
Meanwhile, the snow that fell over the Christmas holiday was ideal for Wednesday's opener, said Mike Kintigh, regional supervisor for Game, Fish and Parks.
"Generally, a day or two after a snow we see a spike in lion harvest. It gives the lions a chance to move around so hunters can locate those tracks," Kintigh said. "I wasn't really optimistic about the opener until this snow came in. I guess I'd expect to see three or four cats come in on the first day."
Kintigh said predicting the outcome this year is difficult.
"Will they get 100 lions? That's a big question," he said. "I think it's going to be real close. And it will depend a lot on snow, and whether we keep getting it regularly."