RAPID CITY, S.D. — South Dakota wildlife officials are deciding whether a Harding County ranch hand can keep a mountain lion he killed while working on another rancher’s land, in a complicated case that has the president of the state Wildlife Federation wondering if the shooter should actually get a ticket.

Shannon Secrest of Buffalo told wildlife officers he discovered the lion in a tree last November when his dogs began barking. He shot and killed it, and reported the incident to the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. Secrest now wants to mount the big cat for display, but officials are trying to iron out several matters in the complicated case including whether Secrest properly killed the cat out of season.

Secrest had a lion permit that is good throughout the year for landowners on their own property and for lease holders on property they lease. Using that permit, landowners and lease holders can keep animals they shoot. However, the .22-caliber rifle Secrest used is a lighter caliber not allowed for lion hunting in South Dakota. There also were dogs involved, though Secrest said he was not using them to hunt lions, the Rapid City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/u5TN04 ). The use of dogs is prohibited for lion hunting in South Dakota.

There also are other questions in the case, including whether the cats posed a threat to livestock that Secrest grazes on landowner Clark Blake’s property.

“He works for me and with me,” Blake said. “He has owned livestock and has been considered a landowner for deer and antelope (permits).”

Bill Antonides of Aberdeen, president of the South Dakota WildlifeFederation, said running livestock as part of payment for ranch work should not be enough to qualify as a lease holder.

“If this possible abuse of landowner privileges is not already crystal clear in state law and regulations, it needs to be fixed immediately,” said Antonides, who worked as a Game, Fish and Parks conservation officer for 22 years.

Emmett Keyser, assistant director of the Game, Fish and Parkswildlife division, said Secrest apparently does not run livestock on Blake’s property under a written lease but that regulations do not specify “written” lease and are “pretty generic” in describing the arrangement that qualifies a lease holder for landowner-lease holder privileges. He said he doubts Secrest will end up with a ticket, though he also might not end up with the cat.

A decision could come as early as the Game, Fish and Parks Commission meeting Jan. 12-13 in Fort Pierre. Secrest declined comment on the case.


Information from: Rapid City Journal,http://www.rapidcityjournal.com