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Game and Fish assist South Dakota with mountain lion population surveys

December 19, 2019
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Cody - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Large Carnivore Section recently assisted South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks with mountain lion population surveys in the Black Hills.

The Black Hills/Bear Lodge mountain lion population spans across state lines and this work helps Game and Fish gain insight into mountain lion population dynamics for a shared population between Wyoming and South Dakota.  

For several years, Wyoming large carnivore biologists have assisted South Dakota with this annual effort.  To survey population abundance, biologists use a mark-recapture method in which DNA is obtained from individual mountain lions through a “catch and release” process where lions are bayed or treed with trained dogs and then darted with a specially tipped dart that collects a small tissue sample before releasing from the animal.

 DNA samples collected from Dec. 1-24 with a biopsy dart serve as the “mark”, while the “recapture” sample is taken during the 96-day hunting season in South Dakota when a hunter harvests a lion.  Samples from hunter harvested lions are compared to the samples obtained during DNA biopsy-darting and the ratio of marked to unmarked lions is analyzed to determine abundance.  These methods were initiated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and continue in South Dakota. 

Mountain lions exhibit solitary behavior and utilize rough terrain for their home ranges, which makes population assessments and wide scale capture operations difficult. In essence, this monitoring tool allows for evaluation without fully capturing and handling individual mountain lions.

- WGFD -

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