The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved staff recommendations for a 2024 mountain lion hunting season at its June 9 meeting in Alma.
For the first time, a mountain lion harvest season will take place outside the Pine Ridge as the Niobrara Unit is created, encompassing parts of Brown, Cherry, Keya Paha, Rock and Sheridan counties. The objective for the Niobrara Unit is to provide a harvest opportunity for mountain lions that allows the population to remain resilient and healthy, while slowing growth of the population.
Mountain lions in Nebraska are part of the larger western population that includes Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming, and are not isolated.
Mountain lion presence has been documented in the Niobrara River Valley of north-central Nebraska since 2001. There has been a resident reproducing population there since 2013 and information gathered through research suggests a population that is growing and will be resilient to harvest.
Season 1 in the Niobrara and Pine Ridge units will take place Jan. 2 through the end of February. The season will end immediately in a unit if the annual harvest limit or female sub-limit are reached. The Pine Ridge limit will be four mountain lions with a sub-limit of two females, and the Niobrara limit will be two mountain lions with a one female sub-limit. Up to 320 permits will be issued by lottery in the Pine Ridge Unit and up to 160 permits will be issued in the Niobrara Unit. An auxiliary season would be held March 16 through the end of March if the annual harvest limit or female sub-limit are not reached during Season 1 in a unit.
The Commission also approved changes to the river otter trapping season. These changes eliminate the overall season harvest limit and simplify the check-in process by allowing otters to be checked within two days after the close of the season and before the sale or transfer of the otter. The requirement of daily checking of season status is eliminated as well. The season will be Nov. 1, 2023, through Feb. 29, 2024. Each harvester will be limited to one otter per season.
In other business, the commissioners approved changes to sportfishing regulations that allow archery paddlefish permit holders to harvest paddlefish in the spillway below Gavins Point Dam. The north wall and discharge canal will remain closed to archery paddlefish fishing.
The Commission renamed the Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center in Lincoln the Nebraska Game and Parks Turpin Outdoor Education Center in the memory of Dick Turpin, a longtime Game and Parks employee and outdoor enthusiast. A dedication and special event open to the public will be hosted at a later date.
Ted LaGrange, wetlands program manager, was recognized for 30 years of service to the Commission and his contributions to Nebraska’s wetland resources and the wildlife that depend on them.
He later presented on the recent Wetlands of Nebraska Outreach and Education project aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of wetlands in Nebraska. The project produced five documentary films and several publications, all available at NebraskaWetlands.com.
Game and Parks coordinated the project, which was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Partners included the Platte Basin Timelapse group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Ducks Unlimited.