Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Photo of landsacape.


Outside the Black Hills, landowners can kill a lion year-round on their property and it doesn't count toward the hunting quota.

As one of the states most recently recolonized by mountain lions, South Dakota has a small lion population. And yet the state's lion hunting season is open year-round until the quota is met. With lion populations hovering around only 200 or so adult animals, the state sets a hunt quota of 60 lions, which is unsustainable, especially for a population still try to reestablish in a state where it was previously driven extinct.

  • Return to the portal page for South Dakota.

  • The status of Puma concolor in South Dakota.

  • State law and regulations affecting cougars.

  • The history of cougars in South Dakota.

  • Ecosystems and habitat in South Dakota.

  • Cougar science and research in South Dakota.

  • Our library of media, research and reports.

  • How you can take action to help!

SUMMARY: Cougars in the State of South Dakota

For more detail you can explore using the links below.

The status of Puma concolor.

In South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks' 2017 Mountain Lion Status Report, the State estimated that, prior to the 2016/17 season, 300 mountain lions resided in the Black Hills. Of these, approximately 230 were adults or sub-adults. While mountain lion population sizes can be difficult to determine, in South Dakota there has been some concern over Game, Fish, and Parks' scientific practices, assumptions, and complete disregard of the basic biological and behavioral qualities of the species. Additionally, lions in the state are threatened by ever increasing hunting quotas.

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Mountain lion law in South Dakota.

In this tab you will find all the governing state statutes, mountain lion legal status, state laws, information about the state legislature, initiative and referendum processes, and the state wildlife agency, mountain lion management plans, mountain lion hunting laws, depredation laws, and other regulations as appropriate.

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The history of lions in the state.

Mountain lions are native to South Dakota and were considered quite numerous in the Black Hills. Unregulated hunting and bounties drove mountain lions to local extinction in South Dakota by 1906. A state bounty for mountain lions continued until 1966, but there are no reports of another lion being killed until 1931.

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Lion habitat in South Dakota.

Though mountain lions once roamed the hills and forests of South Dakota, persecution at the hands of humans drove them locally extinct. If we support open space conservation and preserve corridors connecting potential habitat, we could reverse this situation and bring mountain lions back home to South Dakota.

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The science of lions in the state.

Mountain Lion research in South Dakota is generally conducted by the state wildlife agency, South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks. Always a work in progress, please contact us if we are missing work or new projects have started up.

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Take action for lions.

In South Dakota, human persecution drove mountain lions locally extinct in 1905 and the state was not recolonized with a breeding pair until the early 1970s. Recovery doesn't happen overnight, and it is critical that we monitor and understand population size and dynamics before removing protections. Despite continually unreliable population estimates, mountain lions in South Dakota are no longer considered a threatened species and are now classified as a big game species. As a hunted species, mountain lions are killed in far greater numbers than their population can likely withstand.

Click here to learn more about action