Mother cougar killed, female shipped to zoo, male turned loose
RAPID CITY – The mountain lion siblings that were captured in Rapid City this week have been split up.
The female lion was shipped to a zoo in Portland, Ore., this morning; the male was released back into the wild later in the day.
The eight-month-old lions were orphaned when their mother was tracked, treed and killed Tuesday morning. The 40-pound female kitten was darted and captured Sunday; the 60-pound male kitten was trapped and darted Wednesday morning.
The local lion adventure started Sunday when a local resident spotted the female kitten in a tree. He alerted authorities, who darted and captured the young female cougar.
Game, Fish & Parks big-game biologist John Kanta then spotted a mule deer carcass nearby that was being watched by the mother lion. It ran off when efforts were made to capture or kill it.
The lion, which had a radio collar on it, was pursued and finally treed by hounds Tuesday morning. It was killed with several shots from a pistol.
The adult lion was deemed to be a hazard to public safety, GF&P officials said.
Traps were set for the last of the lions and the young male was found in a trap Wednesday morning. The lion was darted and moved to the Rapid City GF&P building, where both kittens were kept.
GF&P Assistant Director George Vandel said the female left for Portland on a 5 a.m. flight Thursday.
"We actually had a very unique situation here," said Tony Leif, game program manager. "The placement of an animal that young is not easy."
But the Oregon Zoo had another lion of a similar age and was willing to adopt the female, Leif said. The two lions will have a calming effect on each other, he said.
The male lion was much more aggressive, so much so that it had to be tranquilized every time it was handled by GF&P staffers, Vandel said.
"It’s a very wild animal," Leif said. "It’s 60 pounds of muscle, claws and teeth."
It’s been placed "as far away from communities as we can get it," he said. The sub-adult male was taken into the wilds at 11 a.m. Thursday and dropped off.
The lions were orphaned after a decision was made to kill the mother. Vandel said putting down a lion is never an easy decision. But in this case, it was the right one, he said.
"We have basically zero tolerance for lions that move in or live in communities," Vandel said. "It’s just not a safe situation. These are large predators and they are capable of unpredictable behavior."
GF&P Secretary John Cooper made the call to kill the mother lion and was consulted on the decision to relocate the kittens.
"It’s unfortunate we have to take out individual lions," Vandel said. "Nobody likes doing it."
He said everything that was done was in keeping with an established GF&P policy.
Public safety must override concerns for wildlife, Vandel said. There has never been a fatal lion attack in state history, but there have recently been several close encounters in which the lion backed off, he said.
He is concerned that people are coming too close to lions and don’t realize they are dealing with a wild and dangerous animal. "If you encounter a mountain lion, keep your distance," Vandel said.
The state mountain lion plan is available at
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