In 2010, 40 wild mountain lions were hunted and killed in South Dakota during an annual hunt. According to the South Dakota Mountain Lion Management Plan, five of the forty killed were kittens less than a year old.
In total, between 2005-2010, 102 adults, juveniles and kittens have been killed in these hunts. (Table 4)
The Mountain Lion Foundation has been observing the hunts and has highlighted the deaths of kittens:
“Despite the Department’s misinterpretation of the Logan and Sweanor’s research on the subject, the death of 24 female mountain lions would also cause the unnoticed deaths of at least six litters of kittens, for an additional 18 lion mortalities.”
They also point out how the orphaning of multiple kittens as a result of the hunts could actually increase mountain lion attacks on domestic animals later:
“Not to mention, this would also orphan 18 “teenage” lions ranging in age from 12 to 24 months — lions, which as they grow up are now most likely to prey on domestic animals because they didn’t have mothers to teach them what to hunt.”
One of the state’s rules for the hunts is that kittens are not allowed to be hunted and killed. Although, adult females who have kittens are allowed to be killed. As a result, some kittens are dying even though there is a prohibition on killing them directly.
Wouldn’t it make more sense not to shoot adult females with litters? Is it impossible to distinguish between an adult female who might have a litter, from one that does not? Better yet, instead of allowing the adult females to be killed for dubious reasons, thus letting their kittens die, why not relocate some of the adults to protected mountain areas in far off states, away from humans?
A total of 326 mortality events were documented in the Black Hills from 1998-2009. (Page 30) Eighty were killed by hunting, 72 were killed by removal, (which means the state killed them) and 52 were killed by vehicle accidents. In other words, over 200 were killed by humans. (Others died from unknown causes, disease, interspecies conflict and poaching.)
So between removal by the state (72), and vehicle deaths (52) alone, it would seem plenty of mountain lions are dying, even without hunting. The state’s own document explains why so many die because of vehicle collisions:
“The Black Hills has one of the highest road densities of any National Forest.” (Page 6)
In seeing the large number of reported mountain lion deaths, one might expect the overall population must be large in the Black Hills area. However, the state’s own estimate is about 140 adults and 110 juveniles and kittens (Juveniles and kittens are young enough to be dependent on adults).
That number is disputed as being too high by the Mountain Lion Foundation in a recent article. They say the potentially inflated number is being used to justify the hunts and the call for increasing the number of mountain lion killings in 2011:
“Basic math skills would lead anyone who can subtract to acknowledge that by the start of South Dakota’s 2011 mountain lion hunting season on New Year’s Day there could possibly be only 142 lions still existing in the region (99 adults; 43 kittens).”
So will even more mountain lion adults and some kittens be hunted and killed in 2011? Surely there must be a way for the state to educate hunters about the differences between a kitten, a juvenile and an adult mountain lion? It could not be more clear that kittens and juveniles are no threat to humans, so why kill them? Even the adults aren’t attacking anyone.
Couldn’t they at least impose a fine on anyone who shoots a kitten or a juvenile, which is clearly an act of animal cruelty? It appears the better solution is to cancel this year’s hunt and work on gathering better research and communicating more clearly with the public. Why? Because killing mountain lions already dying in large numbers without the hunts, is barbaric.
Public Domain: National Park Service