The Black Hills of South Dakota are teeming with all kinds of animal life - some are docile and beautiful to look at, while others are so dangerous they can be deadly. Most of them you will see from distance only, if at all, but there are a few that you may encounter face to face in some areas, so be sure to take precautions for your own safety. Because of their elusiveness, not a lot is actually known about mountain lions, but according to the recent numbers from the Game, Fish and Parks, there are probably 10 breeding male lions in the Black Hills with a range of 300 square miles; approximately 40 breeding females with a range of approximately 80 square miles. At any one time a breeding female can have up to two kittens with her who stays for up to a year. There are also an additional 20 sub-adult transient males who do not have established territory and are just moving through the area.
The life span for a lion is estimated up to 14 years. With a recent rise in their numbers and changes to the area's environment from last year's forest fires, there has also been an increase in mountain lion sightings. These incredible animals are extremely shy and will generally avoid you if they spot you first. Just seeing one is very rare.
However, in the event you do encounter one, the following steps are recommended by the local forest service offices. Stay calm; Maintain visual contact, but don't move toward or follow the lion. Just watch where it goes and slowly move in the other direction. Make plenty of noise - by yelling or barking like a dog, as canines are natural enemies of lions; avoid approaching it and give the lion a way to escape; DO NOT RUN - running stimulates a lion's instinct to attack. You have to show the lion something it is not used to seeing in its natural prey. Natural prey of the lion usually runs; Try to appear aggressive - make yourself as large as possible by opening your jacket and raising your arms and show your teeth. Small children should be placed on an adult's shoulder; Throw sticks, stones or whatever you have available without bending over (crouching can be a signal of aggression to a lion). UNCONFIRMED PLACES LIONS HAVE BEEN SIGHTED ("Unconfirmed" means that the Game Fish and Parks Department has been unable to find evidence of a lion, ie. tracks, droppings, etc.): The George S. Mickelson Trail; Spearfish Canyon ; The Tinton Road Singletrack; and the Sheridan Lake Recreation Area.