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


South Dakota's Silent Protest

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission recently received the startling news that 19 of the 220 applicants for their "special" lottery of Custer State Park mountain lion hunting tags may not have been lion-hunters after all. In fact, an analysis of the applicants conducted by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department (SDGF&PD) led some officials there to surmise that anti-lion hunting activists "might have been trying to keep the special licenses from going to lion hunters." This statement caused one of the Commissioners to question whether "a silent protest" was under way.

A SILENT PROTEST? Where have these guys been? Mountain lion activists (including MLF) from across the country have been aggressively and vocally objecting to South Dakota's recently adopted mountain lion management plan and the subsequent 2011 mountain lion hunting rules and quotas which are based on said plan. It has been pointed out to the Commission over and over again that the management plan's basic premise of too many lions is based on incorrect mathematical computations, flawed biological assumptions,and a faulty lion population model. But none of that seems to matter to the Commissioners. The Commission not only approved the proposed 2011 lion-hunting quota, they raised the allowable number of lions to be killed this season, and authorized a special first-time lottery for the sale of 10 additional lion-hunting tags for use in Custer State Park. To add insult to injury, this decision was made while the so called public comment period was still in effect. It just goes to show how much the public's opinion really means to Commission members.

Is it any wonder that some lion-protection activists took this mild form of, what some on the Commission might call civil disobedience? Anti-lion hunters weren't allowed a voice in the decision making process so they had to take action with their pocketbooks; action which, if successful, could slightly reduce the number of mountain lions killed by humans in South Dakota this year.

Only time will tell if this goal is obtainable. The Commission authorized the killing of 5 lions in Custer State Park, but stacked the deck against them by allowing the sale of 10 hunting tags. Unfortunately lion-protection activists were only able to secure a few of the coveted tags through the lottery process so it still remains possible for all 5 of the allotted Custer State Park lions to be killed. But that is not the point.

What is IMPORTANT is the fact that some South Dakota citizens have finally been able to go beyond commenting and objecting. For the first time they were able to speak to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commissioners in a language which, even if not fully understood, the Commissioners clearly heard.

The ball is now in the Commission's court. The Commissioners can ignore what the anti-lion hunting activists have attempted to do to this year's carefully planned lion slaughter. They might even take steps to prevent it from happening again next year. But if the Commissioners are smart, just maybe some of them will take this action as a wakeup call and properly address their opponents' objections rather than carrying on with business as usual and running roughshod over the opinions of everyone outside of their small circle of lion-hunting constituents.



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