Rugged mountains at sunrise.
Text: The editorial voice of the Mountain Lion Foundation.


South Dakota's Magically Replicating Lions

In Walt Disney's animated classic, Fantasia, poor, befuddled Mickey uses his boss's magic wand to conjure a self-replicating charm which creates a veritable army of enchanted brooms. It now appears that the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks have produced their own version of "Fantasia" when it comes to estimating the number of mountain lions which live within the state.

Just over a month ago, the Department released its proposed 2010 - 2015 Mountain Lion Management Plan, where they declared, with bombast certainty, that 251 mountain lions (138 adults; 113 kittens) were living in the Black Hills region of the state at the end of 2009*. Based on trends developed by MLF from the Department's annual mortality reports, an estimated 78 mountain lion mortalities will be reported by the end of this year--with, of course, the accompanying (but unreported) death by starvation of an additional 31 kittens.

Basic math skills would lead anyone who can subtract to acknowledge that by the start of South Dakota's 2011 mountain lion hunting season on New Years Day there could possibly be only 142 lions still existing in the region (99 adults; 43 kittens). Yet last Friday, SDGF&P officials told the Commission that 223 lions existed; and this time they didn't differentiate between adults and kittens. What's more, they told the Commission that 40 lions must die next year (through the "humane" process of recreational sport hunting) for the good of the species.

Where the %*&@ did they come up with that number? How did an extra 81 mountain lions spring magically into being like Mickey's enchanted brooms? Did the Department find and use the Sorcerer's wand? Or is it once more just a case of poor mathematical skills on the part of Department officials?

Frankly, I can understand a mistake happening once, but MLF has already publicized some of the Department's mathematical miscalculations. To have it happen again, just weeks after they were informed of a problem with their lion population model, leads one to suspect a deliberate falsehood to justify letting a small number of people shoot more mountain lions in South Dakota.

According to our estimate, it's possible that by the end of this year, 56 percent of South Dakota's 2009 estimated lion population will no longer exist. To compound this crime against
the environment with an additional 50 sport-hunting related lion deaths (the Commission thought the Department's request of 40 was too low) in the first month or so of 2011, virtually assures that mountain lions will once more be effectively extirpated in the state.

The fact this brazen disregard for their stewardship of South Dakota's wildlife occurred on the same day that a Federal Judge was reversing the Bush Administration's delisting of the Grey Wolf in surrounding states (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho), makes one wonder if this is a case of the SDGF&P Commission thumbing it's collective noses at anyone who isn't part of their sport-hunting clique?

Maybe it is time once more to place South Dakota's mountain lion population on the endangered species list. The Federal one this time. South Dakota has already proven they can't be trusted to protect animals on their own "State" endangered species listing.

* See MLF's South Dakota State Page for more information and to view MLF's comments and other articles related to the proposed 2010-2015 Mountain Lion Management Plan (Which has yet to be approved.).



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