Posted 10 months ago
By John Axtell
Senator Ernie Chambers’ bill to repeal Nebraska laws allowing mountain lion hunting drew mixed responses Wednesday at a hearing before the Natural Resources Committee, which took no action on the measure.
Supporters of the bill expressed fear that mountain lion could be eradicated, while the opponents said the Game and Parks Commission should be able to have the tools to manage the mountain lion population, including a hunting season.
Chambers and 9 other speakers called for an end to hunting and the committee received at least 16 letters from Nebraskans and others supporting the bill.
Chambers again promised to do all he could to “prevent the extermination of any species in this state, especially when it’s a predator at the top of the chain,” adding that he was not persuaded by arguments from those who support hunting the big cats.
He did offer a concession to opponents, saying he would not try to repeal current rules that allow farmers and ranchers to shoot a mountain lion if it is a threat to livestock or for anyone to defend himself or herself against a cougar.
Dawes County Commissioner Stacy Swinney had brought the issue to Chambers’ attention while meeting with the Omaha lawmaker earlier this month, and Chambers said yesterday that he never intended to disarm Nebraskans against mountain lions.
Opponents testifying included the Nebraska Big Game Society, Nebraska Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Nebraska division of the Izaak Walton League and three landowners in the Pine Ridge…one of them Commissioner Swinney
Swinney told the panel that the Pine Ridge already has a serious mountain lion problem because the big cats have lost their fear of humans and freely walk through rural homesteads day or night. He said that needs to be revered and “let’s make them afraid of us.”
Other opponents said that hunting isn’t intended as the only way to manage mountain lions, but gives Game and Parks one more management tool.
The Nebraska Cattlemen and the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation took neutral positions, as did the Game and Parks Commission.
Wildlife biologists say genetic studies and other research indicate there is a breeding population of about 22 of mountain lions in the Pine Ridge, which is the site of the hunting season.
The first mountain lion season began New Year’s Day is split into 2 parts, each allowing up to 2 lions or 1 female lion. The first half was open to just 2 hunters, who were allowed to use dogs and who each got a male lion on the second day.
The second half season begins February 15 and will have 100 hunters who will not be able to use dogs. Much of the rest of Nebraska is open for mountain lion hunting year-round for those who buy a $15 permit.
Mountain lions are native to Nebraska, but vanished in the late 1800s after settlers started poisoning and hunting them.