The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission could approve the state’s fourth modern mountain lion hunting season at its meeting in Lincoln next week, though the number of animals allowed to be killed would be cut in half.
Commission staffers are recommending a 2021 season with a maximum harvest of four cats in the Pine Ridge area of northwest Nebraska, after an eight-animal limit was set for the 2020 season.
Hunters ended up killing seven lions between Jan. 1 and April 1, with the largest a male weighing 171 pounds.
In 2017, the Pine Ridge Unit was home to nearly 60 mountain lions — two to three times the estimated population in 2014, when the state authorized its first hunt.
The commission wanted the number smaller to mirror population densities in other western states, said Sam Wilson, the commission’s furbearer and carnivore manager.
And based on its 2019 survey, the Pine Ridge Unit is now home to about 34 cats. Some of the animals were killed by hunters, some by farmers and commission staff after the lions attacked livestock, some by cars and some by other mountain lions.
The 2021 harvest recommendation reflects that smaller population, Wilson said.
“We’re following our management plan and making sure our population for lions remains resilient and healthy.”
The seasons have been controversial, attracting opposition from the public, the Humane Society of the United States and Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, who successfully championed a bill in 2014 to ban the practice, only to have it vetoed by then-Gov. Dave Heineman.
The commission will consider the proposed 2021 regulations June 19 at the Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, 4703 N. 44th St.
A public hearing begins at 9:15 a.m., and the public can testify in person, though the commission is encouraging written testimony to protect public health and to comply with public gathering restrictions.
To have comments entered into the record, send them to Sheri Henderson, 2200 N. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE 68503-0370, or firstname.lastname@example.org, by 1 p.m. June 17. Include your name and organization, and a request they be part of the hearing record.
Masks are mandatory if you attend the meeting.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter
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