An eastern South Dakota businessman and seasoned big-game hunter is among nearly three dozen Americans granted permission since Donald Trump was elected president to bring back lion trophies from Africa, according to a wildlife advocacy group.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave a permit to Jon F. Dagel, of Florence, for whatever he may return should he bag a lion in Zimbabwe or possibly elsewhere on the continent, the Connecticut-based nonprofit Friends of Animals disclosed last week.
The 61-year-old nonprofit acquired the list of 33 permit applicants from 2016-2018 through a Freedom of Information request to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Last week’s disclosure comes as the Trump administration has loosened federal restrictions and made it easier for hunters to receive the permits. That was not the case soon after Twin Cities dentist Walter Palmer killing Cecil the lion in July 2015 with a compound bow, an act that drew scorn around the globe.
Five months after Cecil’s death, the Obama administration decided to place lions in Africa under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, an action that set a higher bar for hunters who want to bring lion trophies into the United States.
The Trump administration has since backed off and is allowing hunters to import lions killed in Zimbabwe and is granting permits in all countries on a case-by-case basis.
For his part, Palmer was never charged with a crime for Cecil’s death and said in an interview with the Star Tribune two months after the hunt that the kill was legal, and that he and the others in his guided hunting party had no clue the lion was the park’s revered 13-year-old with the distinctive coal-black mane and the subject of research.
Dagel, 61, submitted his application for a permit in February 2017 to import a “threatened-listed lion,” explaining that he planned to travel to Zimbabwe to hunt for a lion and would want to bring back “all the parts,” Friends of Animals spokeswoman Fran Silverman. Dagel intended to make his nearly three-week trip in April of that year, according to the application.
If successful, according to his application, Dagel would want to bring back “all parts including skin, skull, teeth and claws.”
Silverman said she did not know whether he went on the trip as he intended, and messages were left Sunday with Dagel by the Star Tribune seeking further information about his plans.
A feature story about Dagel in the Watertown Public Opinion newspaper in 2014 included that he’s gone on more than a dozen big-game hunts in Africa. Those include for leopard and sable antelope in Zimbabwe and elephant in Botswana.
Dagel submitted his application with representation from Louisiana-based Conservation Force, a pro-hunting group whose president John Jackson was appointed to the Trump administration’s International Wildlife Conservation Council.
The council “has a stated goal to remove barriers for the importation of trophy-hunted animals,” Silverman said.
Dagel has been involved in numerous business ventures over the years in eastern South Dakota including the building of grain bins through Dagel Steel Construction, and as the owner of a sports bar and a convenience store in nearby Watertown.
One other hunter from the Upper Midwest, Dan Ongna, of Stevens Point, Wis., was among the 33 issued permits, according to Friends of Animals.