Hunters will be allowed to use dogs to chase mountain lions on private land and some state and federal lands outside of the Black Hills, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission decided Thursday.
In a five-to-three roll call vote, the Commission approved a rule change created as the result of a petition from South Dakota Houndsmen Association President Brad Tisdall. The change will allow landowners to give hunters permission to hunt mountain lions on their land with hounds.
Those hunters will be allowed to cross into state school and public lands as well as Bureau of Land Management lands, provided the hunt originated on private land.
The Commission received 166 comments on the proposal, of which 83 were in opposition while 62 were in favor. Another 22 comments didn't actually apply to the rule change.
Tisdall has said he brought the petition because he's been contacted by several landowners who wanted help removing a problem lion. He couldn't help at the time and felt it wasn't fair to the landowner not to allow them to use every tool available to control problem lions.
Piedmont rancher Reed VanDervoort told the Commission that he has had lions spook his cattle on two occasions. He lost a total of four calves in the incidents.
"It was like a grenade went off," VanDervoort said, describing the aftermath of one lion incident.
Pierre resident Mike Ferris, a hunter who spoke against the rule change, said allowing people to hunt lions with hounds simply isn't fair to the lions.
"I'm against all of this," Ferris said. "You have a guy with dogs that can take care of problem lions right now."
Landowners such as State Sen. Betty Olson, who brought a bill to the Legislature last year aimed at allowing hunters use hounds to tree lions anywhere outside the Black Hills, said the proposal didn't go far enough.
She said she wanted the Commission to allow hound hunting for lions on all lands outside the Black Hills. Olson said she might have to bring a bill during the current legislative session to allow hounds to hunt lions on public lands.
"It will really mess up my schedule," Olson said.
The GFP does not actively manage mountain lions outside the Black Hills right now. That means the big cats can be killed year-round on the prairie but a hunter must have a license to keep the carcass. If someone kills a lion without a license, the carcass must be turned over to the state.