The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission announced last week that there will be no mountain lion season for 2015, and will instead pursue a new three-year study on the state’s big cats. Commission director Jim Douglass told The Lincoln Journal Star that more study on the state’s cougar population will help officials make decisions on how to manage the species.
“It doesn’t mean that we will not have a season during the three-year period. We will look at each year to see what is going on,” Douglas said.
Last year the state opened its inaugural season on mountain lions, which was met with much controversy. The hunt focused primarily on Pine Ridge region between the Niobrara River and White River in northwestern Nebraska, where the cougar population is the highest in the state. In the end, hunters only harvested five cats, while automobile accidents and farmers protecting livestock claimed another 11. State biologists confirmed that the deaths were heavily skewed towards females, which accounted for 10 of the 16 killed.
“The season went as we planned,” Douglas told Omaha.com, “but the known mortalities have been heavily bent toward females. … It’s not the intention of staff to bring to the commission a recommendation for a mountain lion season in 2015.’’
One of the most vocal opponents of the season, Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha, commended the commission on its decision. Chambers previously introduced a bill to block 2013’s mountain lion hunt, and this year sponsored a bill that would take away the commission’s authority to set hunting seasons altogether. The commission however, maintains that hunting is one of the most vital tools the agency has when it comes to managing species like the mountain lion, and that it will not be taking it off the table especially when biologists believe that there may be more cats in the state than previously thought.
“We want to know as much as possible about mountain lions in Nebraska,” said Sam Wilson, the commission’s carnivore program manager. “It’s a dynamic population.”