It's the day after Christmas, and South Dakota's lion hunters - all 4,000 or so of them - are enjoying the present South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks Commission gave them: an early and expanded lion hunting season.
This year, so as to not frustrate all those impatient lion hunters that received new guns or hunting equipment in their Christmas stockings, the Commission moved opening day forward six days and increased the Black Hills lion hunting quota to an unprecedented level. Now the killing begins.
Reminiscent of the global warming debate, South Dakota's game commission believes that it can authorize the killing of as many mountain lions as it wants with no repercussions. As far as they are concerned there will always be sufficient lions to kill: no matter what scientists say.
The following excerpt from a letter we recently received sums up the problem facing South Dakota's lion population:
"The situation here in South Dakota is worse than grim; you would have to live here to realize what a backward state this is. Not that many of the people are not friendly, generous and hardworking, but there is a stubbornness against change (no matter how needed) that borders on pathological. That, coupled with an entrenched good-old boy political climate that views words like "environment" and "progressive" as Satan's vocabulary and subscribes to the idea that animals are only here for our enjoyment; having no other intrinsic worth other than monetary value . . . ."
Things look pretty bad for South Dakota's mountain lions. The season just started a few hours ago and already one female lion has been reported killed. Worse still are the 27 mountain lions that have died in South Dakota since the close of last year's hunting season: mortalities that don't count against this year's lion hunting quota.
South Dakota's small lion population has proven to be critical to the recolonization of the American Midwest. However, chances are that within the next three months that population will be so decimated that experts will be more concerned as to whether it still exists, much less whether it can propagate the species in other states.
To stay in touch with what's happening to South Dakota's mountain lions, click on the following link to help MLF fight for their survival as well as sign up for electronic updates: South Dakota Defense Fund