Game And Parks Commission Makes Big Cuts In Mountain Lion Season

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission last week made significant changes to next year’s mountain lion hunting season.

The 2 biggest changes cuts in half both the maximum number of big cats that can be killed and the number of permits issue. The new maximum is 4 lions and 2 females, whichever total is reached first while 320 permits will be available, all to Nebraskans via a lottery.

Another change from last year is that the Pine Ridge Unit is no longer split into a pair of subunits, each holding half the harvest limit.

The season still covers the months of January and February with an auxiliary season the last 2 weeks of March if hunters fail to reach the harvest limit. That season will issue just 1 permit for each spot still left in the harvest limit with only unsuccessful applicants from the regular season allowed to reapply.

This year’s season saw the North Subunit reach its limit early while the South Subunit required the auxiliary season after no cougars were killed there during the regular season.

The hunting season is intended to moderately reduce the mountain lion population to keep it resilient and healthy in line with the carrying capacity of the habitat and hopefully reducing interactions between mountain lions and humans.

The species was native to Nebraska, but had died out by the early 1900s due to unregulated hunting, trapping, and poisoning as well as the decimation of prey species.

The first confirmed mountain lion sighting in decades came in the Panhandle in the early 1990s with the first resident population in the Pine Ridge believed to have started about a decade later with animals originally from Wyoming and South Dakota..

A genetic survey last May-June estimated the population at 34, down from 59 in a similar survey two years earlier. Undetermined populations also exist in the Wildcat Hills and the Niobrara River Valley.

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