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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

When I read myopic articles like the one below about how allegedly there is a "SURPLUS" of Cougars in South Dakota, it stirs my juices............The entire midwest and eastern USA have seen Cougars extirpated and South Dakota should be the "feeder" point for further eastward expansion...........Researchers in the State need to develop the "LONG VIEW" and not be so narrow focused and feeling that it all begins and ends in South Dakota for our Cougars

Mountain Lions: From nearly gone to a huntable surplus

Steve Griffin remembers that lion back in the 1990s. It was the first he had ever seen in the Black Hills.
But it wouldn't be the last. Far from it.As a wildlife biologist for the state Game, Fish & Parks Department in Rapid City, Griffin has watched over the last 20 years as the mountain lion went from a startling novelty to a daily fact of life in the Black Hills.

"Back when is started, it was unusual. We'd get a report here and a report there," said Griffin, who began his GF&P career in Rapid City as a resources specialist in 1991. "I remember I saw one from a helicopter during an elk survey. And that was a really big deal. We circled around to look again."

Fast forward 15 or 20 years and there are lions crossing roads, lions in people's yards, lions walkingdown streets in the middle of Rapid City.Not all the time. Not every day. But regularly.
Now, there is even a hunting season on lions, one that last winter killed 49 of the big cats.
What a difference a couple of decades can make
From a protected creature covered under the state's threatened species law 20 years ago, the lion has become a relatively common inhabitant of the Black Hills. It has gone from a rarity to being reclassified as a big-game animal hunted and killed by the dozens each year.

GF&P Commissioner John Cooper of Pierre, who served as GF&P Department secretary from 1995 to 2007, also watched the progression of lions in the Black Hills from a shadowy piece of history to a reality of modern life. When Cooper was appointed by former Gov. Bill Janklow to lead GF&P early in 1995, one of his first stops was at the agency's regional office in Rapid City.
There he learned from staff members that lions were a developing issue.

"The staff there said they were getting more lion reports and more confirmation by trappers and our officers of lion tracks and lion kills on deer and prey," Cooper said. "That was the first indication I had that we were going to have to manage a species that had basically been extirpated from the Black Hills region, and from South Dakota for all practical purposes."

Lions had indeed been rare in the Black Hills since early in the 1900s. There were stories. There were tracks. There were occasional sightings. But the big cat's status for most of the 1900s appeared deserving of the threatened rating it finally received in state law in 1978.

After that, the change came relatively quickly in terms of rebounding wildlife species. John Kanta, regional wildlife manager for GF&;P in Rapid City, said the lion recovery occurred through western states during the last 20 or 25 years.

South Dakota was a bit late in providing protection to the mountain lion, which was the target of unregulated hunting and even bounties, which existed until 1966."If you look back on that period around the turn of the century, we pretty much wiped them out," Kanta said of lions. "Here in South Dakota, we didn't protect the lion until 1978. Farther west of us, that protection occurred earlier, in the 1960s. And those states were already seeing lion numbers rebound when we placed the lions on South Dakota's threatened species list."

As lion populations increased in states to the west, "surplus" animals above the carrying capacity of given lion range migrated. Some ended up in the Black Hills, Kanta said.The eventual establishment of home ranges by female lion here is what allowed the population to begin building.
"So you go along with basically no lions, then a few start popping up, then you see a pretty significant increase in the growth curve," Kanta said.

"When you see the females establish, you also see that exponential growth in breeding activity. That's where it takes off."It took off here in the hills. And Cooper got to watch a lot of it happen as GF&;P secretary. He also led the department in asking state legislators to remove the lion from the protected list, allowing the GF&P Commission to establish a limited lion season in 2005.

That process survived court challenges from those who feared hunting would again wipe out the local lion population. Cooper said he never believed that would happen under modern wildlife management policies. Neither did he anticipate a lion season that would kill 49 cats, as the 2011 season did earlier this year.

Cooper, who retired as GF&P secretary in 2007, now serves on the citizen's commission that oversees the GF&P Department. He was one of two votes earlier this month against a commission decision to set the 2012 mountain lion season kill quota at 70 lions overall or 50 female lions.

Commissioners who voted for 70-lion quota, which is 20 more than this year's combined quota, did so in part because of concern among hunters that lions are killing too many elk and deer.Cooper understands that concern but preferred the GF&P staff's recommendation of 60 lions or a sub quota of 40 female cats. And he worries a bit that South Dakota's quota of 70, when added to a season in the Black Hills of Wyoming that could kill 40 lions, will result in a sport-hunting kill of more than 100 lions.

"To me, that seems like a significant amount of lions," Cooper said. "So we'll see."
Cooper doesn't worry about wiping out the lion. But the commission should be prepared to adjust numbers in the future if indications are that the quota was set too high.But whether the quota is 50, 60 or 70, Cooper remains amazed at how high it has become."That's not something I would ever have imagined when we started managing lions," Cooper said. "I wouldn't have figured on more than 20 or so a year."

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