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9th mountain lion killed; all shot in McKenzie, Dunn counties

The ninth mountain lion killed during the North Dakota early hunting season is female, putting the total at eight females and one male.

A hunter shot the latest mountain lion southeast of Watford City, near the Little Missouri River in the Badlands on Tuesday, state wildlife officials say.

Stephanie Tucker, North Dakota Game and Fish Department furbearer biologist, said she'd like to see fewer females taken in the harvest but she isn't too concerned.

"We'll have to wait and see because things could even out before the season is done," she said Wednesday.

All of the lions killed this year have been in McKenzie County or western Dunn County, she said.

The latest cat was between 5 and 7 years old and weighed 89 pounds, Tucker said, adding that it was an average-size animal.

There are no restrictions on which sex can be harvested, however the female-to-male ratio killed is higher than last season.

It only takes one male to mate with several females so it is important to sustain a balance, Tucker said. "You need the females there to replenish the population."

South Dakota is also trying to sustain a healthy population through decreasing the number of mountain lions.

They are hit by cars and having a significant impact on elk and deer populations in the Black Hills, said John Kanta, regional wildlife manager for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks out of Rapid City, S.D.

"We've determined that the population is saturated and we are above what we'd like to see it," he said.

A 2011 preseason estimate showed 225 in the Black Hills alone, he said.

The state has a residents-only mountain lion season from Jan. 1 to March 31. Twenty-one males and 26 females were killed in 2011, according to the Game, Fish and Parks website. Custer State Park had its own season and hunters killed one female and one male in 2011.

"It's certainly what we anticipated," Kanta said of the harvest. "I think we are meeting our management objective to decrease the lion population here."

The state has upped its limits for 2012 and will allow 70 total mountain lions, with a sublimit of 50 females. The season ends March 31 if the quota is not met.

The North Dakota early season in Zone 1, which covers much of southwestern North Dakota, ends on Nov. 20 or when the next mountain lion is killed, according to the department. Zone 1 offers a late season, which runs from Nov. 21 until March, with a quota of four lions. There is no quota in Zone 2, which covers the rest of the state. The season also runs through March.

The season is only open to North Dakota residents, and a furbearer or combination license is required.