No dogs for lion season
State Game, Fish and Parks commissioners on Thursday approved the upcoming mountain lion season. Pioneer photo by Mark Watson
GF&P raises lion quota, opens Custer State Park season
By Mark Watson
Black Hills Pioneer
SAVOY — No hounds may be used to hunt lions.
That ruling came as an amendment to the proposed Custer State Park mountain lion hunting season Thursday during the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission meeting.
Commissioners approved 10 licenses to be sold, and a quota of five lions was set in the inaugural season within the 71,000-acre state park.
License prices were changed from a proposed $300 to $150 for park hunters, and the use of dogs, initially proposed, was prohibited.
Chris Hesla, the executive director of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation, said that the use of dogs “goes against the premise of ‘fair chase’ and would open the way for commercialization of another natural resource in South Dakota.”
“We don’t believe that treeing a lion and shooting it out of a tree is a sporting way of hunting,” Hesla added
Terry Mayes of Rapid City agreed.
“It is an affront to fair chase,” Mayes said.
“I can not imagine why you would want to allow the use of dogs,” he added. “… It is going to have people, who currently do not have an opinion about the lion season, to hate hunting and hunters.”
Commissioner Jim McMahon of Canton set the no-dogs rule in effect for lions. None of the other commissioners disagreed with him.
“I have never liked the concept of hunting (big game) with dogs. Some people do. I personally don’t,” McMahon said. “I think we were going to upset a lot of people by allowing dogs.”
John Kanta, regional wildlife manager with the GF&P, said the initial recommendation to use dogs within the park was to allow hounds men an opportunity in which they were not given in other areas of the state.
An estimated 18 lions are within Custer State Park, according to the radio-collar tracking of lions throughout the Black Hills.
The commission also increased the total number of lions that may be killed to 50, including five in Custer State Park.
Dr. Sharon Seneczko, president of the Black Hills Mountain Lion Foundation, requested the commission follow the recommendations that biologists set forth, something the commission has not done for the past two years. She said the decision to exceed the recommendations could be detrimental to the population.
She also said members of her group were split on their decisions whether to support hunting in Custer State Park.
GF&P biologists proposed that a 40-lion limit be set this year; however, the commission raised this to 45 lions or 30 females in August.
“It’s two paths to the same destination,” said Tony Leif, the department’s wildlife division director. “One is a safer route that offers more stability, but you chose one that will get you there a little faster. Both will get you to the same destination.”
Wildlife officials are trying to trim the population from the current approximate 225 lions down to about 175 cats.
South Dakota State University researcher Jonathan Jenks said the target population of 175 could be reached by 2013 through harvests of 45 lions annually for the next few seasons. He said the harvest could be backed down to 30 or 35 annually after that.
About 25 people spoke at Thursday’s public hearing. Another approximate 80 people wrote in to express their opinions of the recommended seasons. Opinions heard differ greatly, with the majority of public speakers at polar opposites.
The upcoming season, which will open on Jan. 1, 2011, will last until March 31, 2011 unless the quotas or subquota is reached first. The season will be the sixth the state has held. The quota or subquota has always closed the season prior to the March 31 closing date.
In 2010, 40 lions were killed. Hunters harvested 24 females and 16 males. Nearly 2,100 hunters bought licenses for the 2010 hunt.
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