Field & Stream Online Editors

Officials with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks were planning to hold a mountain lion safety seminar in Yankton in early August. But as of Monday, after a 2-year-old male cat roamed middle school grounds and nearby neighborhoods before being killed by police, department officials decided to rearrange their calendars for an earlier-than-expected crash course on how citizens should deal with mountain lions.

According to the Siskiyou Daily News, the animal was first sighted near a middle school in the eastern South Dakota city. Shortly thereafter, the lion wandered to local neighborhoods where it nosed around backyards and took a drink from a pail of water. “It was 10 feet away,” said eyewitness Pam Downing. “He just stared at me for 25 or 30 seconds, then sauntered off.”

The lion later returned to Downing’s property, but it left when police arrived. Eventually the police cornered the lion underneath a parked camper in the neighborhood. Police made attempts to obtain a tranquilizer gun, but because rounds for the gun were not available, they decided to kill the lion. It took several shots to put the 115-pound animal down. “It was an issue of public safety,” police chief Duane Heeney said. “I personally saw hundreds of people in the area. I feel comfortable with the decision.”

At least one official argued that the execution might not have been necessary. Ron Schauer, regional wildlife manager for the Department of Game, Fish and Parks, said that while the behavior of trapped animals can often be unpredictable, mountain lions rarely attack humans. “They are, as a rule, fairly scared of human beings,” he told the Siskiyou Daily News. “I think in the last 75 to 100 years, there have only been 16 to 17 [BRACKET “human”] fatalities.” This lion is believed to be the first ever killed within Yankton’s city limits.

After yesterday’s scare, officials bumped the mountain lion seminar-originally scheduled for August-up to this weekend. Still, despite all of the frightened citizens, there were some, like Downing, who found the incident thrilling. “People ask me, ¿¿¿Weren’t you scared?'” she said. “I tell them no, because it was so surreal.”