Wildlife Officials Consider Lowering Mountain Lion Quota
Mountain lion hunting season began in the Black Hills in the fall of 2005. Wildlife officials say the season was the result of declining deer and elk populations and an increase in the number of lion sightings. Officials took measures to manage the big cat population, but eight years later they say they’re making changes.
Since the mountain lion hunting season began harvest number limits, or quotas, have been among the most heated of debates. In a recent unprecedented move Game Fish & Parks officials are proposing to lower harvest limits before this year’s lion season gets underway.
The current per-season lion harvest limit is 100 lions or 70 females – whichever happens first. Wildlife management officials say those numbers may change.
Game Fish & Parks Commission Chairman Susie Knippling says the decision to consider decreasing this season’s lion harvest quota to 75 lions, or 50 females came after much public input, and after Game Fish & Parks biologists made a recommendation to lower limits.
“The data research and the fact that we didn’t reach our quota last year helped us in deciding that we should lower it,” says Knippling.
Knippling says research indicates that the ideal carrying capacity for mountain lions in the Black Hills is between 180 to 185 lions. She says that lion hunting in recent years has helped control the population, but officials say there’s still a need for a lion hunting season.
“We’re trying to get that number down closer to somewhere between 150 and 200 lions is where we’d like to be because when you get over that that’s when problems start and encounters with the lions start,” says Knippling.
Knippling says wildlife managers are getting close to their desired lion population number, so a decrease in harvest limits is warranted.
“They’re actually almost to a manageable place now, and that’s why we’re going to leave it at 75 this year, because of the fact that we’re still trying to lower the population at this point in time,” says Knippling.
Knippling says the issue of lowering harvest quotas is up for public comment.
“Our goal is not to be rid of them. Our goal is to be able to manage them at a quota that’s acceptable to people and that’s what we’re going for,” says Knippling.
This year’s mountain lion hunting season begins December 26th and runs through March 31st.