The Associated Press – Posted: Friday, October 23, 2009 6:00 am
The day after a state trapper killed a partially blind mountain lion in Deadwood after it was deemed a threat, officials are now looking for a home for the animal’s kitten.
The male kitten, believed to be about 3 months old, is healthy but probably too young to survive on its own, according to Mike Kintigh, regional supervisor for the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks in Rapid City.
The kitten was captured in a live trap. The department plans to keep live traps out on the chance the 6-year-old female had other kittens.
“If there is another one I’m pretty confident that in a day or two we’ll have either caught it or had another reported sighting of it,” Kintigh said Thursday.
A Deadwood resident called police late Tuesday night to report he has seen a lion in his back yard when he went to let a dog out.
The search was delayed because of darkness and difficult terrain until Wednesday morning when the trapper and dogs tracked the female to a tree on a ridge where it was shot around 8:30, Kintigh said.
Earlier that morning, a Deadwood police officer reported seeing two lions together, one smaller than the other, but the trapper found no tracks or other signs of another cat.
“We set four live traps in the immediate area, with the thought that if there were kittens with this female they would all kind of come back to the spot where they separated and we might catch one or two or whatever,” Kintigh said.
It appears the lions had been feeding on a deer carcass in the homeowner’s back yard for two or possibly three nights, he said.
The lion’s limited vision added to the danger it posed by feeding in Deadwood, Kintigh aid.
“Our protocol is pretty clear that if a lion is within the city limits of any community we will permanently remove it.”
The 25-pound kitten was in a trap Wednesday morning. It will be cared for by the wildlife department at South Dakota State University while Department of Game, Fish and Parks contacts zoos that have expressed interest in taking a young lion.
There have been other cases of Black Hills lions exhibiting blindness or cloudy eyes caused by a virus that is not fully understood. In this case, the female had lost about 70 percent of her vision, Kintigh said.
“That limits her ability to hunt, which may have resulted in her coming into a town. You’ve got to realize in a town like Deadwood, there’s a lot of cover for them to hide and stalk in, and a lot of prey, a lot of deer in Deadwood. She may have gravitated to going within the city limits to hunt because of that impairment.”
Posted in News, Local on Friday, October 23, 2009 6:00 am Updated: 6:45 am.
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