I have lived in the Black Hills off and on since 2001, leaving to pursue my ambitions but always returning to replenish my spirit. In that time frame, I have observed herds of bison, herds of elk, white tail, mule deer, mountain goats and big horn sheep, but never once observed the reclusive mountain lion. My friends tell stories of seeing them outside the front door of their homes or barns. They have seen them while they were hiking, hunting or fishing. City people in Rapid City have seen them meandering through the parks and the surrounding outskirts of the city, but for myself….I had never run across one…until recently. It wasn’t in the comfort and safety of my old Dodge, nor was it looking out the window of the front door to my house. My first meeting was an impromptu encounter while hiking. As I ambled down and around a large ledge outcropping, Felix’s cousin had decided that it would ambled up and around the same large ledge cropping. We met half way. I stopped, it stopped and we just stared at each other, trying to size each other up and making our plans of flight or fight. After what seemed like an eternity, we both, thankfully, decided on the flight mode. I scrambled back up and around and it scrambled back down and around. As I reached the top of the ledge, I stood and watched the graceful, yet powerful strides this cat made as it disappeared over the tree line. I really did not know what to think, other than I finally met my first cat, it was a good meeting and we both left just a little shaken but not hurt. For this I was especially grateful for.
There is an estimated, according to some people, 300 mountain lions in these hills. They say if you hike 1 mile, you have been watched by a cat. If you have walked 5 miles, one has followed you. Yet, with the large number of summer tourists and the number of cats, there has not been a reported attack on a human. The problem though, is the growing population of mountain lions. Over population breeds disease, migration into towns and cities, a reduction on young wildlife and livestock, such as the deer, elk, cattle, sheep and horses for food and the increasing possibility of a human attack. The over lords of South Dakota has increased the hunting tags for these cats from around 33 to 100 given out this year. Simply, 100 mountain lions or 70 female cats can be taken. Personally, I have mixed feeling about this. Majestic animals but over population will take its toll on both cat and prey. Case in point, the over population of the human species and the effects this is having on our planet. The only difference, we humans are manipulating the natural “thinning of the herd” and the consequences will become much more of a problem than it is a present.
Anyway, for more information on these majestic animals, go to: HERE