The Wildlife Management Institute was in Rapid City Thursday night to gather input about wildlife management in South Dakota. The firm will issue a report by the end of September - recommending ways the SD Game, Fish and Parks Department can improve. The review comes after persistent complaints about big game management, particularly in the Black Hills.
About 30 people filled the community room at city hall with a wide range of suggestions for the SD Game, Fish & Parks Department. But the overwhelming topic was management of the elk population. Some landowners say there are too many elk which are overgrazing their property. Others say there are too few elk because the state issues too many licenses.
People on both sides expressed distrust in the process of counting the herd because of a discrepancy of numbers released by the SD Game, Fish & Parks Department.
"Predatation is definitely a part of the problem. I think our herd is older because we don't have the younger animals coming up. And, somehow, we're losing the calves. I don't know whether it's all lion, I think there are other problems too," said Charles Nicholas of Spearfish.
"We don't have a clear picture of the elk numbers or how to obtain them. We want to increase elk numbers but we don't really know what we're increasing that to, what number we're trying to achieve," said Eric Jennings of Custer.
"When the information get to Pierre then it somehow doesn't get through to the commission. Or, it comes through in a different form. And I think the hunters, general public and landowners need to have a little be more influence on what the commission looks at," said Don Hausle of Rapid City.
You can't have a discussion about the elk population without talking about mountain lions. One suggestion brought up at the meeting - to classify the big cats as predators. On the opposite end of the spectrum: a proposal to come up with a non-lethal lion management plan.
There's still time to submit your opinion about big game management via email to SDcomments@wildlifemgt.org or by mail to Wildlife Management Institute, 1440 Upper Bermudian Road, Gardners, PA 17324.