The current Management Plan estimates the population of mountain lions in South Dakota to be around 223 individuals (+/- 25). The objective of the 2010 Management Plan was "to monitor and maintain mountain lion populations and habitats consistent with ecological, social, aesthetic and economic values of South Dakota citizens, while addressing the concerns and issues of both residents and visitors of South Dakota." Despite studies that have suggested smaller populations, such as South Dakota's, may be more susceptible to heavy hunting pressures, the state has continually approved higher harvest limits. Additionally, the State puts priority on lethal methods of control of mountain lions that come into human-populated areas. According to the Management Plan, the harvest rate of females has been around 20-25% prior to 2010. Some studies have suggested that lion populations may decline when adult females comprise > 25% of the harvest. Overharvesting of a smaller population may threaten the long-term viability and genetic diversity over time.
Additionally, recovery from harvest relies on nearby source populations; therefore, mountain lion harvest should be managed at the metapopulation scale. As the South Dakota mountain lion population is more isolated than other Western populations, dispersing individuals may not be as readily available to help replenish the population after many of the individuals have been removed by trophy hunting. Even when healthy source populations exist, prolonged harvest can have detrimental impacts on female mountain lion numbers. Harvesting resident adult males can allow higher rates of immigration by males seeking recently opened territories. When a new resident moves into an area, he may kill off the existing kittens so the local females will be ready to breed more quickly and he can sire his own young. Additionally, harvested females leave kittens orphaned and often unable to survive. Despite this, the current Plan outlines a strict limit on the population size allowed by the State to persist in South Dakota. Setting an arbitrary number for the managed population size in the State threatens this small population's long-term viability in the state and has no place in future management plans.
While the use of hounds to pursue mountain lions was not originally approved in the State's Management Plan, permission was later granted in 2015. Recently, the State rejected a petition for the expansion of hound hunting of lions on public lands. Though this vote is a small win for South Dakota's recently established mountain lion population, there is still potential for state wildlife officials to allow expanded privileges for hound hunters in future management decisions. It is imperative that the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department be reminded of the importance of adhering to the best available science in their management decisions.
Lastly, there is a misconception that killing mountain lions reduces conflict on private land. Contrary to popular belief, the killing of lions has been shown to potentially increase conflicts for ranchers and pet owners, as it disrupts natural population dynamics. When a dominant male is removed from his territory, dispersing subadults may immigrate to occupy the previous male's territory. These younger cats may be more likely to prey upon livestock and pets, leading to an avoidable increase in wildlife-livestock conflict. Veteran ranchers know the best protection from predators is to have an older, established male lion on the property. Local sport hunting only increases resident lion turnover and problems with younger transient cats.
Please contact the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commission by Wednesday, November 15, 2017 to show your support for the State's recently established lion population and for sound, science-based management decisions. Remember, South Dakota's wildlife belongs to everyone -- not only to hunters.
Comments can be mailed to:
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
523 E. Capitol
Pierre, SD 57501
Or e-mailed to:
Alternatively, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has provided a pre-written letter, with room to add additional comments. The letter can be found here:
Thank you for taking the time to submit your comments. A few minutes of your time could make a big difference for South Dakota's lions.
In your letter, please point out:
Remember, to be included in the public record and considered by the Commission, comments must include your full name and city of residence.
More information on the State's mountain lion management can be found here: http://gfp.sd.gov/wildlife/management/plans/docs/MountainLionManagementPlan.pdf
Please also send MLF a copy of your letter. PO Box 1896, Sacramento CA 95812 or email it to email@example.com. Thank you!
Hounding is an inhumane and outdated blood sport. Shooting an exhausted and frightened animal out of a tree is unethical hunting and it has no place in modern wildlife management or recreation. Hounding has been banned in two-thirds of the United States. It is a waste of time for South Dakota to even consider expanding the practice statewide.
Using hounds violates all claims of "fair chase" and ultimately does not protect cubs. Additionally, confrontation between lions and dogs can lead to injury of both.
Through our efforts to protect mountain lions from sport hunting in the United States, the Foundation has conducted extensive research on the statement that allowing the use of hounds makes hunters more selective: letting females and juveniles go and only shooting depredating cats or trophy-sized adult males. However, a review of 30 years of records from game managers throughout the western United States found that, although technically feasible, most hunters could not tell the size and sex of an animal up a tree.
Furthermore, of the hunters who claimed to be selective and said they would let smaller and female animals go free, less than 30 percent actually did so. Hounding an animal is sometimes an all day event: following the hounds for hours on end, over rugged terrain, until they finally wear out the lion and it seeks refuge up a tree. After the excitement and exhaustion (and hefty expense if a professional guide was used), more than 70 percent of hunters shoot the first animal they tree, regardless of age, size, or sex.
Hound hunting guides make good money and are a very vocal group. But make no mistake, this is an archaic and cruel practice for both wild animals and domestic dogs that should be banned in the state.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to help protect South Dakota's mountain lions!
Additional options for making a gift are available by clicking HERE.
The Mountain Lion Foundation, founded in 1986, is a national nonprofit organization protecting mountain lions and their habitat.
We believe that mountain lions are in peril.
Our nation is on the verge of destroying this apex species upon which whole ecosystems depend. Hunting mountain lions is morally unjustified, and killing lions to prevent conflicts is ineffective and dangerous.
There is a critical need to know more about the biology, behavior, and ecology of mountain lions, and governments should base decisions upon truthful science, valid data, and the highest common good. Conserving critical lion habitat is essential.