A bill that Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers has stood behind for several years was shot down Tuesday in the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee.

The bill (LB127) would have ended the authority of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to establish a hunting season for mountain lions. The committee voted 8-0 to indefinitely postpone, or kill, the bill.

But they are not done dealing with mountain lion hunting, Chambers said.

The main argument from the committee is that Game and Parks is the agency that manages wildlife in the state, said Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala, chairman of the committee.

"Since we've given them that responsibility then we should trust them to carry out that duty," he said.

Chambers had asked that the committee take a vote, Schilz said. And it obliged.

Bill introductions will continue to the middle of next week. Chambers would have time to introduce the bill again, and he said he will.

And if they kill it again, he said, it will resurface as a proposed amendment to other bills throughout the session.

"So they're not rid of it. They might think they are," he said.

He also says he will target bills introduced to help the Game and Parks Commission, he said.

Game and Parks authorized a hunting season in 2014, and hunters legally killed five lions.

The commission said at a meeting that it would not permit hunting this year because 10 of 16 mountain lions killed in 2014 were females. In addition to the five cougars killed by hunters, 11 others died from illegal hunting, traps and being hit by vehicles.

Committee member Rick Kolowski said he had mixed feelings about the bill. A lot of information is missing that needs to be discovered through studies by the agency, he said.

The committee doesn't know how many mountain lions actually are roaming the state, Kolowski said. And it is unknown how many of the animals are killed by landowners who bury them without contacting Game and Parks' officials.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission field staff began capturing and collaring mountain lions last year. The research project, which includes placing GPS collars on seven to 15 mountain lions captured in the Pine Ridge, Wildcat Hills, Niobrara River Valley and elsewhere across the state, was to take about four years.

"Rather than interfering with the process of putting the study together ... let's give them time to find what the study is going to tell us," Kolowski said.

He would have no problem with a moratorium on hunting the animals until more is known, he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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