By John Lee McLaughlin
A Lead man has logged the largest mountain lion kill of the season, but the 153-pound cat was allegedly poached roadside.
Gregory Johnson has been charged with illegally shooting a male mountain lion on Feb. 15 from the side of a road near Deadwood, which was reported by other hunters.
“It was actually some hunters in the field that witnessed the event and called it in,” Game, Fish & Parks Western Regional Supervisor Mike Kintigh said Monday.
Johnson could lose his hunting privileges if found guilty.
“The charge of hunting big game from the road typically carries a revocation of hunting privileges for a year,” Kintigh said. “I’ve seen judges do different things. His hunting privileges would be revoked for all hunting not just mountain lions.”
Johnson also allegedly used a rifle rigged with a clip that exceeds the state's maximum number of rounds in a cartridge allowed for big-game hunting.
“In South Dakota for big game, your rifle is limited to six rounds, five in the magazine and one in the chamber,” Kintigh said. “I know he had a magazine that exceeds state law. I don’t know how many cartridges it actually held.”
Regional Wildlife Supervisor John Kanta said four total mountain lion poaching cases are under investigation so far this season. Kanta said those include a Pennington County case as well as two cases in Custer County.
Kanta said all four of this season's cases have yet to be tried in court so details are currently being withheld.
Kintigh said his agency investigates poaching cases every year during mountain lion hunting season.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “Thinking back over the last couple of years, we have averaged two or three violations or cases for mountain lions per year. I don’t know, what’s a typical year? I just don’t know what’s going to happen. From here on out, we could find six violations. We just don’t know.”
Black Hills hunters have killed 45 mountain lions since the season started on Dec. 26, with 27 of those cats being female, according to Game, Fish & Parks.
The season will close on March 31 or when either a total of 75 mountain lions or when 50 females are killed. A mountain lion tag cost $22.
A 153-pound male mountain lion that was killed in Custer County on Sunday ties Johnson's allegedly illegal kill for the largest so far this season.
The second largest mountain lion killed was a 149-pound male, which was killed in Meade County four days prior to the one that Johnson shot.