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Native Sun News: Lone Indian voice opposes mountain lion hunt

Lloyd Goings

Lone Indian voice testifies against killing mountain lions
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

SPEARFISH –– The lone Native American voice at public hearing Oct. 1 on the South Dakota’s mountain lion hunting season, asked the Game, Fish and Parks Commission to end the licensed killing of Puma concolor. However, the appointed state authorities voted to keep the practice in place through 2017.

“It’s not hunting; it’s just killing,” said Lloyd Goings of rural Lawrence County. “I spent two tours in Vietnam, and I know what hunting is. There’s a lot more challenge to hunt a person than to hunt a mountain lion,” he said.

Goings’ viewpoint lined up with the majority of those who sent in written testimony. Of them, 105 opposed the season.

An enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Goings testified that he is an experienced tracker, and evidence indicates few mountain lions, or cougar, in the Black Hills and on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

“I’ve been in the hills, and they say there’s a lot of mountain lions and there’s not. They want to hunt mountain lions on the reservation, and there’s not many lions down there, just like up here, he said. “If you kill all these lions, you’re reducing the gene pool.”

A mountain lion. Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The commission voted on Oct. 2 to follow the recommendations of staff for reducing the number of permits available from 75 to 60, or 40 females, whichever occurs first, staff biologist John Kanta told the Native Sun News. The limit will apply in both the 2015-2016 and the 2016-2017 seasons, which run from Dec. 26 through March 31.

After testimony against opening the season to out-of-staters from Goings and all others taking part in the hearing, the commission rejected the staff recommendation for that. Three written comments submitted prior to the hearing were in favor of it.

Goings said the staff proposal for continuing hound hunting in the prairie unit and in Custer State Park “is definitely wrong.” His testimony aligned with Prairie Hills National Audubon Society Chapter President Nancy Hilding.

She lauded the Department of Game, Fish and Parks for the recent designation of a tribal liaison officer, noting that her organization long has advocated better “listening” to tribal government about the mountain lions in their jurisdictions.

Hilding objected to “extending a cruel hunting practice” with hound hunting again included in the season, as staff recommended.

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South Dakota Houndsman Association President Brad Tisdall testified in support of using dogs to hunt cats. He said his group knows of three cougars involved in dog-assisted prairie hunts since the commission legalized the activity outside of the state park earlier this year. Hunters bagged one and let two go due to the locations they ran, he said.

John Hauge, who lives south of Deadwood, said he would like the season to be postponed until better population numbers are established.

“I have no confidence in the numbers that are coming out,” he said. “I’d like to see the season held up for a year.

“I don’t have a problem with lions being on my property,” he added. “They are a natural part of the equation.”

Spearfish resident and environmentalist Tatyana Novikova also called for closing the upcoming mountain lion hunting seasons due to lack of hard data on population. She cited climate change as a possible reason for a documented decline in cougars bagged.

The Black Hills is a really small area for mountain lions and climate change creates very difficult conditions for the life of wild animals,” she said. Hunting season coupled with inclement weather could lead to imminent extermination of this native predator,” she said.

The number taken has dropped from 61, to 53, to 43, in the past three consecutive seasons, according to officials.

Hunter Tim Goodwin said the decline could be due to less snow, making tracking more difficult. Rapid City resident Darwin Jones said he agrees environment change could account for the decline.

“I suspect they are overhunted,” he said. “I think you’re getting the numbers down to where you risk losing the species, or where it’ll have to be protected again.”

Hilding said her organization opposes not only the hunting season, but also the state’s 3-day allowance for West River trappers to check their traps.

“Why we have egregiously long time periods for checking the traps, I don’t know,” she said.

She asked for reform of trapping regulations because they are at “the far end of cruelty.” The majority of states have a minimum 24-hour trap-check time, she said. She called for a requirement for a trap identifier on all traps.

She said her organization is actually “more concerned about hunting bobcats than mountain lions” because the smaller cats are less able to protect themselves.

She said the group is “not surprised” with the commission vote to reject staff’s proposal to allow out-of-staters to hunt mountain lions, “because the instate hunters and the pro-lion community were aligned on opposing it.”

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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Native Sun News: South Dakota department hires first tribal liaison (9/30)
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