Edgemont rancher kills menacing mountain lion
By Kevin Woster, Journal Staff Writer
EDGEMONT — Edgemont rancher Jamie Lawrence said he didn't want to shoot the mountain lion that came to within 20 yards of his home Tuesday morning.
He tried to chase off the big cat by waving his arms and shouting. But the cat wouldn't run.
"I wanted to spook him, then fire a couple of shots in the air to put the fear of humans in him," Lawrence said Tuesday afternoon. "But he didn't spook."
To the contrary, the lion held its ground, hissing and growling, under a semitrailer that Lawrence uses for transporting livestock. Lawrence called Fall River County Sheriff Jeff Tarrell, who called the state Game, Fish & Parks Department regional office in Rapid City. After hearing details of the situation, GF&P regional supervisor Mike Kintigh authorized Lawrence to shoot the cat.
"Based on the facts I was given, I was comfortable with that," Kintigh said of his kill authorization. "You had a mountain lion under a stock trailer, close to a home, growling and hissing and spitting."
Tarrell relayed the word to Lawrence, who used a 20-gauge shotgun to kill the cat. Lawrence stepped off the distance from his house to the cat at 52 feet — too close for comfort considering the cat's unfriendly mood, he said.
"He wasn't shy," Lawrence said. "He was standing his ground. He was taking over."
The incident was the most recent in a string of encounters between people and mountain lions in the Black Hills and the first time since March that GF&P had authorized the killing of a lion.
At that time, a lion snatched a Jack Russell terrier in the back yard of a rural home near Johnson Siding. The dog's owner screamed at the animal and watched in horror from a few feet away as the lion disappeared with the dog in its mouth.
A GF&P team used trained dogs to track and kill the mountain lion, a 126-pound male, early the next day. Although Kintigh was "95 percent sure" at the time that they got the cat that killed the terrier, it was confirmed later by a necropsy at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
"There was no doubt about it. That one had the Jack Russell in its tummy," Kintigh said. "We got the remains of the dog last week and gave it back to the owners so they could bury it."
The lion Lawrence shot Tuesday had been fitted with a radio-tracking collar. Kintigh said it appears to be the same lion that GF&P trapper Jack Alexander, who keeps and runs the lion dogs used to track problem cats, trapped last winter about 20 miles from Edgemont.
Alexander had accidentally caught the cat in a coyote trap. He and GF&P researcher Dan Thompson drugged it and fitted it with a radio collar at that time, Kintigh said.
There was a string of encounters with lions last spring, then very few for the next couple of months, Kintigh said.
"It has been quiet. But that's pretty typical," he said. "The pattern over the last four years or so has been more action in the spring, then quieter in the summer, then picking up again by fall."
Last week, the state Game, Fish & Parks Commission proposed an experimental lion season for western South Dakota. The season would allow hunters to kill as many as 30 mountain lions during a season from Oct. 1 to Dec. 15. The season would close for the year if six adult female lions were killed before Dec. 15.
The proposal, which the commission will consider for final action during its August meeting, also would allow landowners outside the Hills in western South Dakota to apply for licenses to kill one lion on their land. Any lions killed in that hunt would not count against the maximum of 30 lions in the Black Hills.