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Interactions between wild animals and residential areas in South Dakota spike in recent weeks

(South Dakota News Watch) Interactions between humans and wild animals in residential areas of South Dakota spiked in recent weeks, leading to concerns that someone could eventually get hurt.

In early May, a black bear entered Holly Hansen’s suburban Spearfish property and killed 16 ducks, chickens, and turkeys, leaving animal parts, huge paw prints, and a large pile of scat behind.

On May 23, an adult mountain lion was hunkered down in a tree at a home on Wyoming Court, well within Spearfish city limits and not far from two schools, a recreation center, and two parks. State game officers tranquilized the lion and safely relocated it. However, the property owner said on social media that her children likely walked beneath the big cat, whose method of killing animals can include an ambush from a tree limb overhead.

Also in May, a resident near Whitewood, between Spearfish and Sturgis, reported that a suspected mountain lion had killed a foal found dead on her ranch, according to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

Those incidents came amid numerous other wild animal sightings reported in residential areas across South Dakota, including a mountain lion photographed on a residential street in Rapid City in March and an encounter at Sertoma Park in Sioux Falls in May where a woman walking her dogs had to carry the pets and run from two coyotes that chased her.

State game and fish officials refused to comment on the wild animal interactions, but other experts in South Dakota say increasing urban development reduces animal habitat, forcing animals further into cities and towns and making unsafe interactions with humans more likely.

At the same time, the number of deer living in urban areas is also on the rise, leading to about 300 car-deer accidents in Rapid City each year and causing a million dollars in annual damages. Rising numbers of urban deer could also lure more large predator species into cities and towns.

There’s no easy answer to fixing the problem, but experts say people who live near wild areas should not approach wild animals, keep food and garbage locked up, and drive more slowly and with greater caution at night. If you come face to face with a mountain lion or bear, experts advise people to remain calm, raise their arms, try to look big, and shout but do not run.

For much more on this topic, go online to SDNewsWatch.org.