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Dear Betty Olson: Forget Mountain Lions! Real Killers: Spiders

Last updated on 2013.01.25

Rep. Betty Olson (R-28/Prairie City) hates mountain lions. She also hates coherent essays, as I have the pleasure of reading each week in the pile of random observations she submits to the Black Hills Pioneer. But if you squint hard enough at her writing, you can make out the framework of her next big legislative push: anti-spider legislation. Roll with me here.

Exhibit A: On August 14, Rep. Olson recounts the harrowing tale of a home-invading mountain lion up the road in Baker, Montana. A puma went booma through a glass door, hung out in a downstairs rec room, demonstrated remarkable resistance to a tranquilizer dart fired by authorities (a subtle reminder from Rep. Olson that government doesn't work), then made a break for it, only to be shot under a porch down the street. (Tom Lutey of the Billings Gazette gives an excellent account here.)

Rep. Olson jumps to a critique of a South Dakota Game Fish & Parks "listening meeting" (I hear mockery in Betty's quote marks) last month, where our trusty outdoor officers held lots of small group conversations to give folks a chance to speak their piece on mountain lions. Olson complains:

There were no open microphones and they didn't take public testimony. I'm sure it was a coincidence that the meeting was held the same week as the bike rally in Sturgis, but I and lots of other folks didn't care to fight the motorcycle traffic just to tell GF&P what they've already heard on numerous occasions [Rep. Betty Olson, "Mountain Lions and Losses," Black Hills Pioneer, August 14, 2012].

Her point made, Rep. Olson turns without segue to obits, including two fatal highway wrecks. Mountain lions were involved in none of those deaths.

Exhibit B: On August 21, Rep. Olson riffs on Californians for criticizing their state Fish and Game Commission president Dan Richards for legally killing and eating a mountain lion in Idaho. (Hey, why not? I've eaten mountain lion, and it's tasty!) She then warns Californians and the rest of us that mountain lions will gladly return the favor:

Evidently, Californians feel that mountain lions are just huggable kitties. You occasionally read about mountain lion attacks in that state. Just last month, a 65-year-old camper was attacked in his sleeping bag by a mountain lion and seriously injured.

California mountain lions not only attack, on occasion they kill. There have been three fatal mountain lion attacks in California since 1990. A jogger, a hiker and a mountain biker were the victims. Six Californians have died from mountain lion attacks since 1890 [Rep. Betty Olson, "Fair Time and the End of Summer," Black Hills Pioneer, August 21, 2012].

Olson urges readers to contact our Game Fish & Parks Department and demand fatwa on mountain lions. She then turns to the pleasure of brunch at the Eggebos'. No word on whether Eggebos served mountain lion.

Exhibit C: Tonight, September 11, Betty Olson writes that Louise Jenson told her that Betty Clark said that her daughter Laurie almost ran over a mountain lion by Sturgis last week. Olson says two less swift cougars have recently been killed on the roads near Sturgis.

But Olson also mentions grim arachnid danger in our midst:

Mike Patterson, 61, from Harding passed away last Tuesday from complications from a spider bite. Mike's memorial service was held on Friday at the Harding Church [Rep. Betty Olson, "Fire Danger High," Black Hills Pioneer, September 11, 2012].

There you have it: spiders have now killed more South Dakotans than mountain lions have this year. Or ever.

Rep. Betty Olson and her fellow legislators love to chase varmints. Clearly, if we are responding to the demonstrated risk wildlife poses to South Dakota citizens, it behooves Betty Olson to draft legislation to wage war on deadly fuzzy public enemy #1: spiders!


  1. Donald Pay 2012.09.11

    Hey, mouse piss, or at least certain viruses within mouse piss (and feces) has killed more people than mountain lions, and may be up there with spiders. Maybe she can be the mouse piss queen, too.

    Rep. Noem, of course, would also be interested that hantavirus, after being pissed out by the mouse, dries and becomes airborne on fine particles. But we don't want to control that, now do we. Better that people die.

  2. bret clanton 2012.09.11

    I am not going to defend everything my State Rep. says or does but i will say this. She has been an EMT in the Reva community for well over 30 years. She has witnessed virtually every car wreck and death there in that time. She is a volunteer at almost every community function there and county wide. She would be an excellent role model when it comes to community service. Just sayin.....

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.11

    I can agree with the sentiment, Bret. My community has a lot of good neighbors and volunteers. Alas, good neighbors and volunteers aren't necessarily logical writers or effective legislators.

    Be sure to check for spiders under the bed!

  4. grudznick 2012.09.11

    Ms. Olson should be treated with more respect and less mockery. She is right. If there is an insane amount of spiders crawling at us from all directions it is certainly not the fault of the legislatures. And if it were it would be Nelson or Lust's fault. But it's not. So let young Ms. Olson alone to help all of us eliminate more kitties. If you go to Mud Butte and beyond you will see the sort of things going on there. Ms. Olson is fixing them.

  5. Justin 2012.09.12

    I know everybody knows this, but I will just state the obvious. The fight to reduce mountain lion populations is a fight only rich, government subsidized West River ranchers care about. It's like the fight over wolves in Yellowstone, with ranchers claiming there is a huge loss to their states from more difficult elk hunting (when they often also fight to eliminate out of state hunters out of the other corner of their mouths).

    I respect their concerns about predatory loss in their stock. I would just prefer to have an honest discussion about it.

  6. Justin 2012.09.12

    Caveat: the landowner licenses that can be sold for high four figure and low five figure dollar figures MUST BE MAINTAINED. But the lotteries are apparently

  7. Justin 2012.09.12

    Economy threatening.

  8. Rorschach 2012.09.12

    To be fair Justin, Rep. Olson doesn't want to eliminate out of state hunters. She wants landowners to control their licenses and ranchers to be able to sell those licenses to the out of staters at exhorbitant fees and keep the money. She wants landowners to "own" deer & elk when it comes to selling licenses but government to "own" the ones that run into your car on the road and pay the unfortunate motorists whenever they hit a deer. In short, privatizing profits and socializing losses. GOP economic philosophy.

  9. larry kurtz 2012.09.12

    What the advocates for extirpation of cougars West River are avoiding: bears are being sighted, one in Hulett the other day and at least one wolf pack is becoming established.

    R said it: Olson and her brain-dead earth hater allies want to de-regulate human economic predators but would kill all non-human ones: how conservative.

  10. larry kurtz 2012.09.12

    The environmental community is suing the Forest Service and the EPA for allowing lead on areas like Victoria Lake near Rapid City which are now toxic waste sites.

    ZooMontana has developed a regimen using available technologies to deliver the more preferred method of birth control like administering PZP in darts or biobullets rather than continuing to spray lead all over public lands because it gives credibility to a failed worldview.

    The cougar pays, of course: either with her life or as a more mature member managing ungulates on a broken ecosystem that is already vulnerable to the establishment of wolf packs.

    SDGFP is a political body exercising control over species that should enjoy protection on federal ground while turning its head as cattle decimate the Black Hills hydrologic region as an entitlement.

    The West is collapsing regardless of the extirpation of predators.

  11. Douglas Wiken 2012.09.12

    "I am not going to defend everything my State Rep. says or does but i will say this. She has been an EMT in the Reva community for well over 30 years. She has witnessed virtually every car wreck and death there in that time. She is a volunteer at almost every community function there and county wide. She would be an excellent role model when it comes to community service. Just sayin....."

    Just sayin...that Olson should be for more rational control of alcohol if she has witnessed highway crashes. The liquor road terror lobbyists have more influence than the Mountain Lion lobbyist.

  12. Justin 2012.09.12

    Oh I know Rorschach, thus my caveat.

  13. Steve Sibson 2012.09.12

    Betty Olson to draft legislation to wage war on deadly fuzzy public enemy #1: RINOs.

  14. DB 2012.09.13

    Mt. Lions will become an issue in the future. Don't kid yourself. I hunt them every year and I can tell you there is a huge decline of their food sources and a huge increase in their population. We used to be able to find deer all over the hills and that is becoming a challenge. Don't even get me started on the elk numbers. First few years we were lucky to see a lion, and not you are lucky not to see a group of them. Eventually, if let uncheck, we will start seeing attacks on humans. It only makes sense if their population is not kept in check and they have less and less to eat. A good start would be to get the Game and Fish to admit they are breeding East River. I've seen them as far East as Coleman and I have seen one or two in the Howard area almost every year. They have been caught on trail cams down south for quite some time. I think the Game and Fish has had their head in the sand too long, not much different than MN and their inability to admit to a breeding population of wolves up until a few years ago.

  15. Les 2012.09.13

    Those howling the loudest on protecting the lion, wish to run them on my ground. I doubt they own an acre of land. If you wish to run them(lion, wolf) on federal lands, get out there and run herd on them and keep them confined.

  16. larry kurtz 2012.09.13

    nothing the yellowstone supervolcano won't fix....

  17. Justin 2012.09.13

    I sure wish I could look at my operating expenses and decide that some of them should be paid for by the government.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.13

    Hey, Larry, can you remind us why the mountain lions are running out of food and may have to start eating corn-fed South Dakotans?

    Believe me, I'm no fan of mountain lions. I spend plenty of time on the open road and trails out here. Mountain lions are one of the few reasons I give any serious consideration to spending money on a firearm.

    But data is data. Spiders are responsible for more human deaths in South Dakota this year than mountain lions. If I have legislative time and money on my hands, I use it to swat some spiders!

  19. larry kurtz 2012.09.14

    First: every year, Black Hills residents kill thousands of ungulates even elk calves with their cars.

    Under pressure from cattle producers, GFP has chosen to reduce cougar numbers killing randomly rather than selectively targeting younger animals (generally considered the troublemakers).

    Mesopredators like golden eagles but especially coyotes, emerged to fill the voids left by GFP's stupidity to manage deer fawn and elk calf populations.

    Orphaned cougars have no way to learn to hunt so they come to town or into yards looking for easy pickins.

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