The number of mountain lion hunters in South Dakota's Black Hills was larger than those after deer in the same area this past season, introducing an up-and-coming business in the state.
The Rapid City Journal shared word of the final number tally, with 4,351 mountain lion licenses bought in 2013. That more than doubled the totals for the 2010 season.
Deer hunters, on the other hand, purchased just 3,300 Black Hills rifle licenses.
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The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks has reported on the on-going mountain lion season, in which 18 have been harvested since it began on December 26, 2013. The season will continue until March 31, 2014, or until 75 total mountain lions have been harvested. There is also a female harvest limit of 50, which would end the season early if reached before the last day.
No other species has seen such growth in popularity of licenses, and mountain lions are proving to be a major attraction for hunters. According to South Dakota GFP studies, the amount of time spent hunting mountain lions nearly doubles that of deer hunters and turkey hunters.
Still, the overall success rate of a mountain lion hunter in South Dakota is only around 1.2%. Instead of mountain lions being looked at as a potential impact on deer herds, they're now being viewed as a lucrative asset on the state's outdoor economy.
The Wildlife Management Institute did an independent review on the South Dakota GFP's big game program in the Black Hills region in 2013. In it they said "The discrete nature of this area and population have made it possible for the Department to apply methods that would not be as effective in other areas and to generate population size and composition estimates with greater precision than most other western states."