Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Photo of landsacape.


Outside the Black Hills, landowners on their own land can kill a lion year-round and it doesn't count toward the hunting quota.

In South Dakota, human persecution drove mountain lions locally extinct in 1905 and the state was not recolonized with a breeding pair until the early 1970s. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, and it is critical that we monitor and understand population size and dynamics before removing protections.

Despite continually unreliable population estimates, mountain lions in South Dakota are no longer considered a threatened species and are now classified as a big game species. As a hunted species, mountain lions are killed in far greater numbers than their population can likely withstand.

  • Return to the portal page for South Dakota.

  • The status of Puma concolor in South Dakota.

  • State law and regulations affecting cougars.

  • The history of cougars in South Dakota.

  • Ecosystems and habitat in South Dakota.

  • Cougar science and research in South Dakota.

  • Our library of media, research and reports.

  • How you can take action to help!

More about what's going on in South Dakota:

Currently, residents may hunt mountain lions year-round until the regional quota is reached. These quotas are set without being informed by a robust population estimate, and they do not take into account cougars killed as road kill, on tribal lands, those killed for management or depredations, and those killed during fatal trapping incidents. With the recovering population hovering between estimates of 150 to 300 individuals, South Dakota can't afford to mismanage its mountain lions.

Here's what you can do:

Immediate Steps:

  1. Build a coalition to learn from and educate people on how to peacefully coexist with the mountain lion population.
  2. Contribute a positive voice. Write a letter to your local newspaper expressing your excitement about local mountain lions and your views on the importance of protecting them.
  3. Distribute educational information on how residents can protect their pets and livestock. Consider animal shelters, veterinary clinics, 4H clubs, Scouting organizations, FFA, shooting clubs, and any other pertinent public locations as potential outlets.
  4. Email and suggest local officials friendly to mountain lion conservation in South Dakota.

Interim Steps:

  1. Become familiar with the Department of Game, Fish and Parks section of Article 41 of the Administrative Rules of South Dakota. Reach out to MLF and wildlife experts. Then attend public meetings with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission and ask them to:
    1. Require certain steps be taken by owners to protect their pets or livestock before they are permitted to acquire a depredation permit
    2. Put an end to the unfair practice of using dogs to hunt cougars.
    3. Offer information and training for landowners on non-consumptive techniques for dealing with potential depredation issues.
    4. Develop and implement a rancher outreach and education strategy
    5. Create a government-funded compensation program for losses of domestic animals to mountain lions.
  2. Do you know of a state official that may understand the importance of protecting mountain lions in South Dakota? Write to them:
    1. Tell them why you and so many others want consistently reliable population estimates and severely limited hunting quotas until all mountain lion losses are accounted for in the development and enforcement of quotas.
    2. Request a shortened hunting season in consideration of mating and birthing seasons.
    3. Implore them to begin an effort to establish depredation regulations that require the exhaustive use non-lethal strategies.
    4. Explain the need to conduct a habitat impact assessment prior to expanding human development.

Long term Steps:

  1. Request to meet with your state legislators to talk about
    1. The potential management benefits that could stem from accurately recording all annual mountain lion losses.
    2. The importance of a reliable population estimate and the effect it will have on hunting seasons and quotas.

Graph of human-caused lion mortality in sd.

ON AIR: Phil Carter - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

03/19/13 An Audio Interview with Julie West, MLF Broadcaster

In this edition of our audio podcast ON AIR, MLF Volunteer Julie West interviews mountain lion program manager Phil Carter of Animal Protection of South Dakota. Carter discusses the often ridiculous lengths the South Dakota Department of Game and Fish will go to to disregard the public, bury scientific research, and ignore all common sense. Trying to protect mountain lions in South Dakota and incorporate the best science into management has turned into a game of one step forward, two steps back.

Click here to view our Activist Guide...

Becoming a Mountain Lion Activist

There are lots of opportunities to take action!

Are you new to mountain lion activism? You want to change your local environment to improve it for cougars... but you don't know how to start. You may feel like you are all alone... but it takes just one person to change the attitudes and lifestyles of hundreds of others. You don't need to belong to a group. It doesn't take special skills or superhuman abilities. You just need to care enough about cougars to want to help them survive. You've already done the hard part, now let us help you with the next step.

Click here to open a new window and visit the agency's website...

South Dakota Fame, Fish and Parks

Commonly abbreviated as: SDGFP

Katie Ceroll, Director

Main Office:
20641 SD Highway 1806
Fort Pierre, SD 57532
(605) 223-7660

Please write to the director and express your concern for lions in South Dakota.

Thank the agency when they take steps to protect our state's cougars. When they fall short of expectations, politely ask for policy reform and more officer training.