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Economists say coronavirus disaster declarations may be the quickest path to reopening; militia groups use virus, Independence Day to recruit followers.

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Trump visits South Dakota's Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore today; nearby tribal leaders object, citing concerns over COVID-19 and a fireworks display. Plus, voter registration numbers are down from this time in 2016.

S.Dak. Endangered Species Day Celebration Targets Mountain Lions

May 16, 2008

Rapid City, SD – The Oglala Sioux Tribe is making a study of mountain lions an environmental priority, now that the Black Hills Mountain Lion Foundation reports evidence that a breeding population may exist on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.

Trudy Ecoffey, a senior wildlife biologist with the Oglala Parks and Recreation Authority, says the mountain lion is the only large predator on the reservation, and her group wants to know whether the animals are just visiting, or there to stay.

"They are a key part of our ecosystem. Plus, it's an educational opportunity to show tribal members they need not be afraid of the mountain lion, that living in mountain lion country is a good thing. We hope to reduce any kind of human and mountain lion interaction, if at all possible, through education."

Jim Margadant, with the South Dakota Sierra Club, says his group and a number of other conservation organizations from around the state and nation are contributing almost $6,000 to keep study crews in the field another year. He says today's Endangered Species Celebration Day observance is a perfect time to raise state awareness about the need to ensure that all wildlife, including mountain lions, has large areas of stress-free habitat.

"We got going on the project because of the huge contiguous acreage of wildlife habitat involved here. Those type of areas are unique. And, a large predator population, a stable population, is healthy and maintains those habitat areas in better shape than an area without natural predators."

Margadant says failure to monitor and manage the mountain lions could lead to the animals' disappearance. The new funding will allow more time to study the animals in seven different reservation areas, using safe-snaring techniques, camera trapping and DNA sampling.

Conservation groups helping with the funding are the South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra club, The Sierra Club’s National Wildlife and Endangered Species Committee, the Rapid City Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, the Black Hills Mountain Lion Foundation, Prairie Hills Audubon Society and Tom Huhnerkoch, DVM.

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD