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CHADRON -- A driver returning home from a Thanksgiving visit to Nebraska collided with a mountain lion near Chadron State Park, killing the animal.

Sam Wilson, carnivore program manager at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, confirmed the vehicle-mountain lion accident and said the lion killed was a 92-pound male estimated to be 2 years old.

The driver of the vehicle, Kent Stenson, was returning to Rapid City, S.D., after visiting eastern Nebraska and said in an email that the mountain lion walked onto U.S. 385 in front of him. “With the snowy and icy roads, I couldn’t avoid it,” he said.

It was the first live mountain lion he has ever seen in the Black Hills and Pine Ridge areas.

Nebraska Game and Parks earlier this fall decided against an open mountain lion season in 2016. The inaugural season took place in 2014; five mountain lions were taken that year.

The 2015 hunting season was canceled after 11 other mountain lions died during 2014, either from illegal hunting traps or vehicle collisions.

Future hunting seasons will depend on research being carried out by Game and Parks to determine the lion population.

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