Commission has thankless task
Published: Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks commission members recently proposed a mountain lion hunting season with a quota of 100, up from 70 last year. The total killed last year was actually 73. Commission members didn’t just pull this number of 100 out of the air.
They arrived at this number after taking public input via emails, letters and phone calls from the public. They also relied on staff input from GF&P wildlife biologists who now estimate the total number of mountain lions in the Black Hills at 300, up about 100 more than the estimates before the 2012 lion season.
Commission members receive criticism from hunters and non-hunters alike who all have their opinions about how many lions, or whether any lions, should be killed. Commission member John Cooper, former secretary of the department, was in Custer this past Monday and said the input on the lion season from the public runs the gamut of not having any lions killed to the 100 proposed for next season not being enough.
Cooper said those who advocate totally wiping out the lion population and those who want no lions killed at all are both well meaning, but wrong. It doesn’t make sense to kill all the lions because then the deer and elk populations will run rampant, descimating alfalfa fields and getting into haystacks. The department then has to field landowner complaints of having too many deer and elk.
The response in the past has been for the commission to increase the number of deer and elk licenses to hunters. After the deer and elk numbers are reduced, the response from hunters is that the department went too far and issued too many such licenses because the number of deer and elk are down, which also means the number of hunting licenses for these animals is reduced.
On the other hand, if there was no lion hunting season now, the Black Hills predators would become their own worst enemies by running out of hunting territory and being forced to find food sources in towns and cities. (They would also drastically reduce the deer and elk populations in the Black Hills, leading to more hunter complaints.) Simply capturing and relocating them is not a viable option because there is no place to relocate a large number of mountain lions.
We don’t envy the tough game management decisions GF&P commission members have to make each year. In many cases, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It’s impossible to make everyone happy with the management decisions they have to make each and every year. The best they can do is rely on public input and solid and reliable input from its staff, like GF&P regional supervisor Mike Kintigh in Rapid City.
We commend GF&P commission members like John Cooper for their interest and dedication in doing what they believe is in the best interests of all South Dakotans. We trust they are privy to information that makes their tough decisions much easier. It’s a thankless task and we appreciate all they do for the state.
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