Cougar season opens on Fort Berthold Reservation 6-9-07

NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) - The Three Affiliated Tribes has opened a one-month mountain lion hunting season in specific areas of the Fort Berthold Reservation because of the many recent sightings of cougars.

Tribal Councilman Barry Benson, who serves as chairman of the natural resources committee, said the season is aimed at ensuring the safety of residents.

A horse west of New Town was attacked recently. “The horse was pretty well beat up. It definitely was a mountain lion,” said Fred Poitra, director of the tribal Game and Fish Department.

In late May, a tribal member shot a mountain lion southwest of Mandaree. A citation was issued to Walter Deville because there was not a hunting season open at the time.

In mid-April, a mountain lion was found frozen in Lake Sakakawea, near the same time a paw print of a cat was found in the Van Hook area.

Mountain lions have been spotted recently near New Town Marina and near a community walking path, and also north and south of the city.

The tribal Game and Fish Department has brought in a professional mountain lion hunter to help track the animals. Poitra said his department also has made arrangements to get a cougar trap.

Poitra, who has been a game warden for 15 years, said the reservation has never before had this much mountain lion activity.

The lion season will continue through July 15. Hunters must have a tribal furbearers license. Female mountain lions with kittens still having spots are off-limits to hunters.

There is a limit of one animal per hunter, but no limit for the total number of cats killed during the season.

“The only requirement that we ask for is to have the harvested animal weighed and checked out by the state Game and Fish,” Poitra said. “The skull and pelt then will be returned to the hunter who harvests it.”

North Dakota's third mountain lion season is planned later this year. The maximum five lions were killed during each of the first two state seasons - the majority of them west of the Missouri River - and state wildlife officials said the carcasses proved western North Dakota has a breeding population of lions.