BLACK HILLS – South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks employees removed three mountain lion kittens from the Black Hills Friday after their mother had been killed during the current mountain lion season. The female, the 11th of the season, a 3-year-old, was killed Thursday near Wind Cave National Park.
“Our policy whenever we can determine that mountain lion kittens are still dependant on the care of a female lion taken by a hunter is to search for the young when we believe that they are not old enough to survive on their own,” said George Vandel assistant wildlife division director.
The kittens were not with the female when it was killed, an occurrence that is not uncommon.
“We located the kittens approximately 1.5 miles from the harvest site,” said John Kanta, regional wildlife manager for the GF&P. “It is not uncommon for the females to be away from their kittens for two or three days at a time.”
The female mountain lion and her kittens had been radio-collared as part of the ongoing research project in the Black Hills.
“In this case we knew what to expect and with the radio collaring we had no problem locating and retrieving the kittens,” Vandel said. “We knew due to the radios that the one male and two female kittens were two and half months old and that the kittens would not be able to survive on their own.”
This marks the third litter of kittens removed from the Black Hills by GF&P staff since the hunting season opened three years ago. Two litters were removed in 2005, the inaugural year of the season, and the recent removal marks the third incident.
GFP staff brought the kittens to the Custer airport where they were air transported to South Dakota State University in Brookings. A veterinarian will inspect the kittens and they will be held until a zoo or other certified facility is located to provide permanent care.
The 10th female killed, shot on Wednesday, was also to found to have been with kittens, however this litter was not removed or found. “She gave us some indication that she had kittens about 4- or 5-months old,” Kanta said.
GF&P officials searched the harvest location with dogs but were unable to find them. “We determined they were big enough to cover a lot of ground and would be able to survive on their own.”
Mountain lions seen together may not be shot, according to hunting regulations.