RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A snow cover in the Black Hills should help mountain lion hunters and the biologists who manage the big cat population.

The season opened Thursday and runs through March, unless a harvest limit of 75 mountain lions or 50 females is reached earlier.

All mountain lions killed within the Black Hills must be taken to a Game, Fish and Parks Department representative in Rapid City or Custer State Park within 24 hours for inspection.

That allows staffers to log its weight, condition, sex and age, and take DNA and other samples. That information helps estimate the lion population and determine if the current policy to reduce it is working.

The GFP says the goal is to have 175 lions in the Black Hills, plus or minus 25.

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