Dakota Octogenarian Plugs Cougar

Martha Smith, an 80-year-old South Dakota native who has lived her entire life on a ranch in the Black Hills, didn’t think twice when she saw Bo, her Border collie, being threatened by a hissing, snarling mountain lion in her yard last week. She grabbed her always-loaded rimfire rifle and headed out the door.

In recounting the event several days later, she offered some sage western South Dakota logic to a reporter from the Rapid City Journal.

“What good’s a gun if it’s not loaded?”

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Later admitting she was a little rusty having not fired a gun in a few years, Smith said she missed with her first shot from her .22 rifle.

“He was a little uphill, and I should have raised the barrel more,” Smith said.

After the missed shot, the octogenarian and retired nurse went back into her house to summon authorities from S. Dakota Game, Fish & Parks. When a 911 operator told her that agency personnel could not respond immediately, she knew the fate of Bo rested in her hands.

“So rather than have a loose mountain lion around I waited until he lifted his leg to run and then I shot him in the chest,” said Smith.

The lion jumped up, ran a short distance and dropped to the ground, dead.

GF&P; regional wildlife manager John Kanta subsequently estimated that the 6-month-old lion weighed about 40 pounds. The collared animal was the offspring of a female killed during the 2007 hunting season.

“Thank God he was little, because I don’t think my .22 would have killed a big one,” Smith said.

Smith told the Journal that she also keeps a .30-30 handy, but admitted it’s a bit much for her to handle at her age--so she wasn’t planning to use it until a neighbor made her some reduced-powder loads.

Agency officials determined the woman was justified in killing the cat, and the spunky 80-year-old recalled the incident with pure, Western pragmatism.

“I knew I’d have to kill him. You can’t have a mountain lion in your yard,” said Smith.