MITCHELL, S.D. -- Two area men are among three hunters charged with illegally using dogs to tree and kill a mountain lion Feb. 1 in Pennington County.
The female lion had two kittens, one of which later died. The other is now in a zoo.
The lion was shot about three miles south of Hill City, Conservation Officer Blair Waite said.
Waite said James Jucht, 71, of Sioux Falls, shot the treed lion, and David Terveen, 63, of Emery, assisted in the shooting.
Pennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Josh Hendrickson said Jucht and Terveen each face the same charge of violating the conditions of a big game license. The big game violations are Class 1 misdemeanors, which can bring up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Both men face a April 19 hearing in Rapid City before Seventh Circuit Magistrate Judge Heidi Linngren.
Wade Musick, 41, of Mitchell, was ticketed on a charge of illegally using dogs to hunt lions, a Class 2 misdemeanor that could bring up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine if he is convicted.
Musick will have an April 10 hearing in Rapid City to discuss the charges.
“It’s a time for him to meet with the state to go over his options,” Henrickson said. “He can enter a plea at that time or ask for a court trial.”
All men were legally licensed hunters.
The use of dogs to hunt mountain lions was allowed this year on an experimental basis, but only within Custer State Park. The lion at issue was shot outside the park boundaries and before the in-park dog hunting season opened, Waite said.
“In Mr. Musick’s defense, he said he was using his dogs to hunt bobcats, which is legal in South Dakota,” he said.
Waite said Musick was not present when the cat was shot, so he was not charged with aiding and abetting in the alleged crime, but he said Musick admitted his dogs treed the lion.
Waite acknowledged that dogs cannot differentiate between bobcats and mountain lions.
“But apparently neither can some people,” he added.
One kitten was found immediately after the lion was killed, and the kitten was taken to a zoo. Waite said the other was trapped about 10 days later but was in such poor condition that it had to be euthanized. The bodies of the female lion and the kitten are being held as evidence.
Mike Kintigh, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks regional supervisor, said 61 mountain lions were taken during the annual harvest that ran from Dec. 26 to March 31. The number was short of the total 100-lion or 70-female limit set for the season. Only 35 female lions were taken. The female lion in question is not part of those harvest numbers at this time, but the lion and kitten will be added to his department’s lion mortality list, which tracks all lion deaths, Kintigh said.
Kintigh said lions are an emotional topic for hunters and conservationists alike, and statistics are tracked by groups nationwide.
“I’ve had emails on this from as far as California and New York,” he said. “People are following this pretty close.”