According to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department website, three mountain lions - one 10-year old male, and two females (5 and 8-years-old) - have already been killed in the Black Hills hunting district since the 2015 lion hunting season started on the day after Christmas.
Despite failing to reach lasts year's mortality goal, and in order to avoid public opposition, South Dakota's game commission decided last August to maintain the 2014 lion hunting quota of 50 females or 75 lions total.
What the Commission failed to take into account, or refused to admit, was that the drop in last year's hunting harvest could signal the population collapse that many mountain lion researchers are predicting.
That potential collapse can be seen in a breakdown of South Dakota mountain lion mortality statistics over the past 12 months (December 26, 2013 - December 25, 2014).
- 27 mountain lions were killed in addition to the 55 "officially" shot in the Black Hills during last year's hunting season (December 26 - March 31) bringing the 2014 lion mortality total to 82.
- Of the 82 mountain lions that died, 45 were females.
- Twenty-six of those dead lions were less than 1 1/2 years old.
- Six of the lions killed by trophy hunters were spotted kittens younger than six-months-old.
- Four additional spotted kittens (younger than three-months-old) were "accidentally" killed by humans.
- Research in Montana has found that few males in hunted populations survive beyond 3-years of age. That theory appears to hold true in South Dakota. Of the 37 males reported killed, only 8 were older than three.
Now that South Dakota's 2015 mountain lion hunting season has started, it's anyone's guess as to how many lions will die over the next three months. The only thing certain is that nothing good will come out of hunting such a small and over-stressed lion population.