GF&P Commission hears many voices on proposal to kill up to 100 lions

2012-10-04T06:30:00Z 2012-10-04T07:54:05Z GF&P Commission hears many voices on proposal to kill up to 100 lionsKevin Woster Journal staff Rapid City Journal
October 04, 2012 6:30 am  • 

State Game, Fish & Parks Commission Chairman Jeff Olson is accustomed to getting advice from citizens in Rapid City and Pierre and Belle Fourche.

Hearing from people in Belgium, the United Kingdom and South Africa is something new, however.

The business of managing mountain lions and online options bring comments from near and far.

Olson and other members of the GF&P Commission will consider many conflicting voices as they meet today in Deadwood to set the 2013 state mountain lion season — a hunt that could actually start during the last few days of 2012.

As proposed by the commission in August, the season would allow a kill limit of 100 lions, a level well above the 70-cat maximum set by the commission for the 2012 lion season held earlier this year.

Olson is hearing plenty about that.

"The last four days have been overwhelming," he said Tuesday evening, as he monitored an email infusion that averaged one per minute during some stretches. "I've probably read close to 200 comments in the last week or so, mostly emails."

There was a heavy surge of emails from lion advocates across the nation in coordinated opposition to the proposed hike in the lion kill quota. Connections with lion-advocacy groups also reached beyond the United States to other lands.

Most of the comments from beyond South Dakota's borders were against the hike in the kill quota. Some include rants about South Dakota's mountain lion "slaughter." Others threaten tourism boycotts.

In total, the flood of outside messages could give opponents of the season proposal a numerical edge in the comment count. But more local comments, tending to run heavily in favor of killing more lions, have been coming to the commission for months.

A flurry came during a special Rapid City meeting on the season proposal in August. Like the comments at a meeting earlier in the year, they were heavily weighted toward killing more lions, in part to help protect deer and elk herds in the Black Hills that have declined in number the past few years.

Those same sentiments are mixed in throughout the public comments published on the GF&P website Wednesday.

"The mountain lions are having a major impact on the game populations in the Black Hills, and their recovery, especially the elk, will be impossible unless the growing lion population is reduced," Chamberlain resident Alan Lien wrote.

In her comment to GF&P, Jennifer Wild of Spearfish agreed that lions need to be reduced. But her focus was different than diminished big-game herds. Noting that lions have been seen within a half block of her home, Wild said: "It's time to bring the number of cats back down before a human life is lost."

There is little chance of that occurring, according to John Laundre of Oswego, N.Y., a college biology instructor who serves as volunteer biologist for the Cougar Rewilding Foundation. Acknowledging that cougar attacks on humans do occur, Laundre insists that they are rare.

"The chances of being attacked and killed by a mountain lion are so low compared to all the other risks we face daily," he said.

Laundre takes issue with the dramatic hikes in recent years in the lion-kill quotas set by the GF&P Commission. The first lion season in 2005 had a maximum kill of 25. A a tighter limit on the number of adult female lions kept the total kill to 13.

The 2012 season earlier this year allowed up to 70 lions to be killed.The actual kill for the season was 73 lions, due to a flurry of cats being turned in the final two days. In addition, three more lions have been killed by licensed landowners hunting in an extended season outside of the Black Hills.

That's an overshooting to begin with, Laundre said. To take it from 70 to 100, with an alternative sub quota of 70 female lions, is far beyond what the Black Hills lion population can sustain, he said.

Many hunters believe that even GF&P's recently revised estimate of the Black Hills lion population, from 200 to 300, is still too low. Laundre contends that the actual lion population is likely closer to 150. He said there is more politics than science in the commission's season proposal, shaped to respond to complaints from hunters about too many lions killing too many elk and deer.

"Hunters are greedy," Laundre said. "They want it all for themselves. And what that leads to is a single-species management where they push game agencies to manage for game they want to hunt."

Olson argues that the commission is trying to balance the demands of hunters with the best interests of big-game herds and the long-term viability of the mountain lion as a top-of-the-line predator in the Black Hills.

Setting the kill quota is a complicated question with answers unlikely to please everyone, he said. And it's possible that the commission will discuss a quota even higher than 100. Some hunters are pushing for that.

"As chairman, I can't make motions or seconds," Olson said. "But I'm kind of guessing somebody might try to bump it up (from 100). I think it might be a point of discussion. We'll just have to see."

Other potentially controversial points of discussion in the proposal are the limited use of lion hounds in Custer State Park and extending year-round lion-hunting options available to landowners outside the Black Hills Fire Protection District to non-landowners, as well.

The main state lion season and most of the lions are within the fire district.

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) Comments

  1. wildcat
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    wildcat - October 18, 2012 8:03 pm
    Christopher. Spatz:

    Prior to popping off concerning the potential limitations of the techniques used to make puma population estimates across a portion of the Black Hills in South Dakota, Cougar Rewilding Foundation should perhaps at least review a smidgen of the info and data that are currently available. For example, consider the content presented in table 1.9 on page 48 of the latest SD dissertation relevant to mountain lions: Anthropogenic Factors Affecting Mountain Lions in the Black Hills of South Dakota

    Keep that word "portion" in mind. Because once you have noted the portion of the SD Black Hills for which those estimates apply, you just might begin to understand part of the reason that SD GF&P eventually reconsidered and then conservatively lifted the pre-season mountain lion population estimate to 300 animals for the 2012 season. You will recall the 2012 season ended a month early when a quota of 70 cats had been taken, after hunters handily harvested 73 animals. (And I believe that prior of the 2012 season, GF&P had suggested a population estimate of only about 200 total cats.)

    Watching the way this has unraveled since 2005, it seems very unlikely that an over-harvest of SD Black Hill lions will ultimately push their population lower than a pre-season level of 150 animals. So, should the lion population ever fall below a pre-season level of 150, do you know what might cause that, Spatz?
  2. wildcat
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    wildcat - October 08, 2012 2:44 pm

    This statement is presented on page 18 of the South Dakota Mountain Lion Management Plan 2010-2015: "Objective 1. To reach a sustainable and socially acceptable mountain lion population that is in balance with available habitat and other game animal populations in the Black Hills of South Dakota at 175 +/- 25 individuals."

    If a 100 SD Black Hills lions were magically removed from the population at this very instant, there is ample reason to believe the population might well still be above goal.

    I'm hunting this next week but upon my return, would be pleased to read your reaction to that last sentence. By the way, ever heard of carry capacity (long term).
  3. wildcat
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    wildcat - October 08, 2012 2:31 pm

    This statement is presented on page 18 of the South Dakota Mountain Lion Management Plan 2010-2015: "Objective 1. To reach a sustainable and socially acceptable mountain lion population that is in balance with available habitat and other game animal populations in the Black Hills of South Dakota at 175 +/- 25 individuals."

    If a 100 Black Hills lions were magically removed from the SD population at this very instant, there is ample reason to believe that population might well still be above goal.

    I'm hunting for the By the way,ever heard of carry capacity?

  4. CSpatz
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    CSpatz - October 07, 2012 7:49 pm
    "So CRF, I'm curious, were any of the "independent cougar biologists" (who supposedly found "significant errors" in the SDGFP population estimate for the Black Hills mountain lion population) from Belgium?"

    Belgium? No, but our review of the GF&P August video on the updated population estimate determined that,

    1. Mark/capture estimates cannot be accurate in an open system where both uncounted kittens and immigrant individuals (virtually all of the adult males in the Black Hills National Forest are immigrants) appear.

    2. The 2010-2015 management plan estimated that there were 140-160 adult mountain lions in the Black Hills National Forest, adults who were purportedly suffering from weight-loss due to overabundance. Yet, according to the video, this population of starving cats continued to rise until ’09, suggesting that initial estimates were short by 150 adults. That’s not a statistical error; it’s either a reflection of gross systemic incompetence or an outright fabrication.

    3. The video explains that human-caused mortalities cannot exceed 8 per 1,000 sq. km without beginning to reduce a population, that 10-15% mortalities of the population is sustainable. Since ’10, an average of 16 human-caused mortalities per 1,000 sq. km have occurred each year, upwards of 45%, yet we are asked to believe that there remain in 2012 300 mountain lions in the Black Hills National Forest.

    4. One commissioner notes that the failure to meet quotas is a desired management goal, an indication of population decline. 2012's female quota of 50 was short by 5. Now, the proposal is to extend the season and raise the female quota by 20?

    The Black Hills National Forest mountain lions are a federal wildlife population owned by all United States taxpayers. SDGF&P has an obligation under public trust doctrine to manage them for all US citizens, not re-exterminate them (targeting 70 of an estimated 87 adult females) for a minority interest as a scapegoat for a decade of lousy ungulate management.
  5. Bikerdude
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    Bikerdude - October 05, 2012 7:02 am
  6. 76Freedom
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    76Freedom - October 04, 2012 6:57 pm
    (PS) Pretty close photography of the mtn-lion posted w/ this article. Good sedation drugs during capture & tagging come to mind. Why not a REAL-LIFE photo - like 5 seconds before being drugged? I'll bet you could count all of its teeth. Were any GF&P people injured during this procedure?
  7. 76Freedom
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    76Freedom - October 04, 2012 6:35 pm
    As reported: "In total, the flood of outside messages could give opponents of the season proposal a numerical edge in the comment count." Out of SD & even worse - outside The US comments should have ZERO influence on SD lawmaking & SD regulaions. Our Natl. Parks were mentioned previously, hunting is prohibited within all Park boundries - non-issue in my mind. I agree w/ the Hunter's points whole heartedly - eventhough I do not hunt. Being 4th generation Custer County, I feel somewhat aware of what it takes to live in the BH & safely raise a family. My parents, kids & I grew up being able to go outside @ night & enjoy the stars & tranquility of living in the country. I had faith in our large-protective family dogs to watch over my kids. Now - you can't even have the dogs out @ night - NONSENSE! We've lost a dog & numerous cats to the "kitty" in the darkness - family pets! I've always wanted to get goats or sheep (weed-eradicators) & chickens (bug-killers) - no way now. My greatest concern is the Inevitable 1st HUMAN KILL by a mtn. lion in the BH - only a matter of time. Mtn. lions strolling residential areas in cities & killing pets - wayyy to much!
  8. Yankton16
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    Yankton16 - October 04, 2012 5:09 pm
    The Mountain Lions in SD have far more integrity than any of the blood thirsty hunters who hunt them with high-powered rifles in the name of sport. Diminishing the Elk and Deer herds? What a crock of you-know-what. It's embarrasing to be from a state that is 50 years behind the times and whose best idea for commerce and self promotion is to turn their state over to a bunch of loud degenerates and Harley wanna-be's for a week. Good luck to the Lions - it appears they will need it.
  9. wildcat
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    wildcat - October 04, 2012 4:18 pm
    Since representatives of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation appear so intent to intervene in the affairs of the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks Commission, this forum is as good as any to suggest to CRF that they are coming across sounding like a broken record. For example, in an RCJ article published on August 19th, titled: "2012 a record year for lion deaths," a poster using the handle, "CSpatz," (read Christopher Spatz, President of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, or perhaps one of his an associates) essentially accused South Dakota GF&P of "chronic math deficiencies" and "blatant abuse of a dubious estimation technique."

    Though now, in this article, we encounter Dr. John Laundre, Vice President of Cougar Rewilding Foundation, apparently offering his latest Black Hills lion population "estimate," which appears as nothing more than stab in the dark based solely on "significant errors" (a phrase I've borrowed directly from cougar rewilding); to wit, on July 20, 2012, in a comment submitted in reply to the RCJ editorial titled - EDITORIAL: Review should restore trust - CSpatz asserts that: 'Significant errors in the data estimating the Black Hill's cougar population were found by independent cougar biologists reviewing the SDGF&P study."

    Of course, CSpatz did not identify any of the alleged "cougar biologists" that he referred to, and certainly did not address their snarling agendas, nor their track records, which makes one curious as to what data those so called "independent cougar biologists" could possibly possess that others who are actually attempting to monitor the South Dakota population do not. One can only presume that CSpatz did not issue such a claim based on information plucked from thin air, even though that claim is particularly reminiscent of the unfounded rhetoric that is not uncommonly unleashed by the Mountain Lion Foundation, whose track record for population estimates (read, underestimates) involving the Black Hills lion population often appears as nothing short of 99% pure, agenda-driven, hype. And since I assume the MLF is primarily based in California, that, in and of itself, frequently causes me to wonder why certain people in California (and others in Belgium) apparently seem to think they know more about the Black Hills lion population than South Dakota's own biologists, lion hunters, residents, and commissioners.

    Actually, why would anyone seriously consider anything presented by the Cougar Rewilding Foundation when their own Vice President, Dr. John Laundre, was so far out in left field with his black-box, Black Hills mountain lion population estimate in 2010, when he suggested there were only 85 adult lions in the Hills. Though in that particular case, given Laundre's claim, it was easy enough to demonstrate that he was completely wrong since we know that 49 lions were harvested on just the South Dakota-side of the Hills during that very next season (Jan. 2011), followed by 73 more this past season (Jan. 2012). Moreover, roughly 90% of those harvested lions were independent cats (adults). And that does not even begin to consider the approximately 80 additional mountain lions harvested on the Wyoming-side of the Hills during the past two hunting seasons. Thus, as we knew then (in September 2010), John Laundre was well off the mark with his "estimate," which was quite obviously based on "significant errors" (or worse).

    So on one hand we have the Mountain Lion Foundation from California, a thousand miles southwest of the Black Hills, suing South Dakota in 2005 because they apparently felt a harvest of mere five adult adult female lions would jeopardize the South Dakota population - and on the other hand, there's an adjunct professor from a State University of New York (at Oswego), 1400 miles east of the Hills, seemingly attempting to convince or persuade South Dakotans there were only 85 adult lions in the Black Hills region in advance of the 2010 - 2011 hunting season. And now there are only 150 are still remaining in advance of the 2012-2013 season -- after more than 200 were taken across the Hills during the just past two seasons. Hmm!

    And then there's the Action Alerts with pleas for assistance reaching out to Belgium and South Africa!

    So CRF, I'm curious, were any of the "independent cougar biologists" (who supposedly found "significant errors" in the SDGFP population estimate for the Black Hills mountain lion population) from Belgium?
  10. Chris Good Eagle
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    Chris Good Eagle - October 04, 2012 1:52 pm
    The hills are everyones. Not just local inhabitants. National parks and protected lands are belong just as much to people in NY as they are here. Those lands are set asid for americans as a whole. If the control would be left to only locals there would not be a mountian lion, coyote, or Lakota left alive.
  11. interested_party
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    interested_party - October 04, 2012 12:41 pm
    Fascinating that the same people who would deregulate predator capitalism would eliminate another species threatened by the Anthropocene.

    Coyotes have emerged to fill the void left after this war on cougars, now birth control techniques are being developed that could affect ungulate and grouse populations.

    From the Gillette News Record:

    "The technique uses deslorelin, a hormone that renders coyotes sterile. According to MacGregor’s paper, “Chemical Castration of the Coyote,” studies conducted in Utah and Colorado confirm that lamb and pronghorn fawn survival rates are higher in sterile versus intact coyote territories."

    Technologies to administer hormones to cougars effectively using dogs exist: orphaned kittens are the trouble-makers.
  12. BHNT21
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    BHNT21 - October 04, 2012 12:28 pm
    I think that people who dont live here shouldn't be able to change anything. There are more lions in the hills than people think. We need to be able to control the numbers of lions before they wipe out the deer and elk. I understand that everyone can give an opinion but this is a matter of the people here in the hills and surrounding area. Raise the limit to 100 lions its going to help out!
  13. common_sense
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    common_sense - October 04, 2012 11:53 am
    I would like to hear Mr. Laundre's explination of how over 70 lions were hunted without the use of dogs in only two or three months? If there are so few in the hills according to him why are hunters so successful then? If there are so few why are they seen everywhere? If there are so few why are there no elk calves or deer fawns? IF THERE ARE SO FEW why do they brave helicopters to hunt traquilized elk? If GF&P REALLY and I mean REALLY wants to irritate locals that pay their salaries start including the opinions of out of state people. Good move there.
  14. wildcat
    Report Abuse
    wildcat - October 04, 2012 9:48 am
    "There you go again."

    Two years ago, Dr. John Laundre was quoted in an RCJ article - Mountain lions called integral to the Black Hills - as having stated: “I suspect that there are only about 85 adult mountain lions..." in the Black Hills. Obviously, Laundre was wrong. Now, apparently, Laundre contends that the actual lion population (in the Black Hills) is likely closer to 150. And once again, there's still not an iota of evidence that supports Laundre's contention.

    This statement is presented on page 18 of the South Dakota Mountain Lion Management Plan 2010-2015: "Objective 1. To reach a sustainable and socially acceptable mountain lion population that is in balance with available habitat and other game animal populations in the Black Hills of South Dakota at 175 +/- 25 individuals."

    If Laundre chooses to insult all hunters by labeling them as "greedy," that is his choose.

    But I trust that Commission Chairman Jeff Olson and other commissioners will consider the South Dakota lion management plan (along with GF&P's current population estimate) and set the harvest quota accordingly. The sooner "Objective 1" of the lion plan is met, the better!

    (Perhaps one of the commissioners should actually motion to establish the quota at the level of Laundre's most recent claim, provided South Dakotans aren't yet too overly worried about what a person in Belgium, California, or New York might think.)
  15. Native Thoughts
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    Native Thoughts - October 04, 2012 9:04 am
    Lol funny and we wonder why our world is spiraling out of control. It's because some people in this world care nothing for nature. Let the mountain lions at least have one hunter a come on people are you eating the flesh of this animal are you going starve to death if you don't kill one. These animals deserve just has much to be on this planet and should get treated with respect. Really hunters complaining that lions kill to many deer and elk, when a single hunter probably kills more than a pride of lions in a month. Hunters need to seriously take a look in the mirror. Hunters just need to put that gun away and find something else to be good at. Because really to hunter something with a high powered rifle is no sport at all....something someone does because they can't cut it at anything challenging so they find the easiest thing to be good at. Post this please!
  16. eyeonu
    Report Abuse
    eyeonu - October 04, 2012 8:55 am
    Whenever I hear someone make the statement they are going to boycott I take it as pure blackmail. For all the non resident nay sayers, stay home. I doubt that you can find South Dakota on the map. On the other hand, I have hunted the Custer area for over 30 years. With the decrease of deer and licenses issued the fall influx of hunters has all but dried up. In the 80's we had a choice of motels and more than one restaurant that served breakfast. Now, when Nov 1 comes around there may be one lodging facility and one restaurant open for buisness. This is just one community in the Black Hills. I would like to see comments from buisnessmen in the towns outside Rapid City about the effect of low deer numbes.
    Report Abuse
    BHRIDER - October 04, 2012 8:14 am
    Please let the New Yorkers mind there own business, his reasoning as to why there is only 150 lions in the Hills is more absurd than the fantasy that there is only 150 lions in the Hills. I say raise the limit to 150 and if it fills in 3 months or less than obviously there are more lions in the hills. Seriously though I think a limit of around 125 is very good based on the fact that there are probably more like 500 lions in the hills. And certainly turn the hounds loose in CSP.
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