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

3/10/2014

South Dakota's 2014 Lion Hunt Fraught with Dead Kittens and Other Illegal Activities

South Dakota's 2014 mountain lion hunting season is entering its final days with at least 47 lions killed so far in the Black Hills region alone. The details of these so-called trophy kills, released by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department (SDGFP), doesn't paint a pretty picture of their state's version of "hunting," or the parties participating in it.

First off, it's now questionable as to whether or not South Dakota will come close to meeting its proposed hunting quota of 50 female lions or 75 lions total. It may become the second season in a row where the lion mortality numbers have dropped; even though this year's quota was 25 percent less than the previous year's. South Dakota's Game Commission may not agree with MLF, but it's our assertion that these lion mortality numbers could reflect far fewer lions within the Black Hills region than SDGFP claims, and might be the start of a population cascade.

Second, of the mountain lions killed as part of the Black Hill's hunt, 60 percent (28) of the mortalities were females; 51 percent (24) were less than three-years old and probably hadn't had a chance to establish a territory or breed before they were killed; 26 percent (12) were estimated as being 18-months or younger (basically young lions probably still dependent on their mothers for survival); and 11 percent (5) were spotted kittens six-months or younger. These numbers tell the story of a species under stress, and a population base whose next generation is being killed off before it has even had a chance to propagate.

Third, South Dakota appears to base much of its management decisions on limited hunting data from the Black Hills Fire Region. So, even though South Dakota's "official" hunt count now stands at 47 dead lions (as of March 3, 2014), the actual number of lions killed in South Dakota by humans since the season started on December 26, 2013 is 50.

Fourth, the stories filtering out of the state for this year's hunt do not reflect well on South Dakotan hunters as true sportsmen, but displays them more as opportunistic killers looking for bragging rights no matter how pitiful the kill may be.

Take for example the fact that eleven percent of this year's "successful" hunters achieved that title by killing small, helpless spotted kittens not much bigger than a house cat. Or that this year's "record" trophy kill is now being considered a poaching incident carried out by a hunter who "allegedly" shot his lion from a roadside using an illegally sized ammunition clip. And the latest South Dakota hunting story being reported is about a former state Senator who shot his lion while it was caught in a leghold trap.

How can they call it responsible wildlife management if all South Dakota can produce from this unnecessary blood sport is questionable entertainment for thugs and a dwindling lion population?