After a heated public forum Thursday concerning a proposal to increase the mountain lion harvest, Game, Fish and Parks commissioners voted Friday morning to raise the quota from 70 to 100 lions.
Commissioners said they've spent hours upon hours listening to people and reviewing data, and the decision was unanimous.
"A hundred lions will be the quota this year" for the Black Hills National Forest fire protection area, Jeff Olson, the GF&P Commission chairman said, adding "We don't want a population on the prairie."
So another part of the commission's decision was to open lion hunting on the prairie to all hunters instead of just landowners, a move Olson doesn't think will result in too many kills.
"It's really insignificant," he said, "because there's not many lions harvested on the prairie, if any."
Others aren't so sure.
"Given this and the road kills and the other ancillary losses," said Tom Huhnerkoch, a longtime opponent to the quota, "[there could] be a couple hundred cats taken out of the Black Hills ecosystem this year."
He called that unsustainable.
"We're way overboard," Huhnerkoch said, "and this could be the tipping point."
What's also overboard, according to wildlife biologist Chad Lehman, is the rate at which lions are killing elk calves, a big motivating factor for raising the quota.
"What we found was calf survival through September was 9 percent better this year than last year," Lehman said.
That's after last year's 73-lion harvest.
But Huhnerkoch said lions are simply an easy target and not the real problem.
"Viruses don't care what they kill," he said. "Predators kill when they're hungry. Feed their little ones."
"We certainly want a healthy population of lions in the Black Hills," said Olson, "and that's why we're trying to find out what that number is."
Olson said that number is between 150 and 175.
Commissioners were working with a population estimate of about 240 lions in the Hills when they adjusted this year's quota.
Some opponents also claim it takes two or three years to see the effects of a change in the quota, but Olson said they'd get too far behind with management if they went that long without doing anything.