Lions and the way they die part of GF&P statistics
Lions die in many ways in South Dakota.
They get hit by cars and trucks and even motorcycles. They get caught in traps. They drown. They kill each other.
They get sick. They starve. Occasionally, they die while GF&P teams are chasing or handling them in research work.
And, sometimes driven by hunger, they wander into town or kill pets or domestic livestock, to then be killed by local police, Game, Fish & Parks officers and, sometimes, members of the public.
But the runaway leader in lion deaths is sport hunting, which accounts for 249 of the 611 lion deaths confirmed in South Dakota — almost all of them in the Black Hills region — from 1996 through last week.
It’s a factor certain to grow as the lion season expands.
The state GF&P Commission in 2005 first set a sport hunting season on lions — a species that was once essentially eliminated from the state, largely through unregulated shooting. Hunters killed 13 cougars during the 2005 season, with another being taken outside the regular season.
From there, the commission has, bit by bit, increased the allowed kill for the season, up to a high earlier this year of 73 in the regular season. Three more lions were killed by landowners with lion permits outside the Black Hills Fire Protection District.
The GF&P Commission has proposed a 2013 lion season to run from Dec. 26, 2012, through March 31, 2013. But it would end sooner if a quota of 100 lions overall or 70 female lions were reached.
The commission will take final action on the proposal during meeting at the AmericInn in Deadwood on Oct. 4 and 5.
2012 a record year for lion deaths
When a state Game, Fish & Parks Department officer killed a 9-month-old mountain lion in Spearfish last Sunday, it was the 96th confirmed lion mortality this year.
That is already a yearly record in GF&P lion statistics, with more than four months to go in 2012.
And if confirmed lion deaths continue as they did in 2011, the 2012 total is likely to be between 115 and 120 for the year.
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