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Neb’s first cougar hunting season will be trial

July 27, 2013 at 09:44 PM

The Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The state's first mountain lion hunting season next year will be held on a trial basis, then reviewed by wildlife biologists and staff to determine whether there will be a second season.

On Friday, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved the creation a mountain lion hunting season to begin in 2014.

The commission established four units — Pine Ridge in the northern Nebraska Panhandle, Keya Paha in the southern Nebraska Panhandle, Upper Platte in north-central Nebraska and Prairie, which covers much of the rest of the state. But the commission will allow hunters to kill mountain lions in only two of those areas, the Pine Ridge and Prairie area, the Lincoln Journal Star ( reported Saturday.

Mountain lion sightings have been reported in Keya Paha and Upper Platte, but more data needs to be collected to estimate populations there, said Scott Taylor, administrator of the agency's wildlife division.

Up to four mountain lions may be killed next year in the Pine Ridge area. There will be two seasons, running back-to-back from Jan. 1 through Feb.14 and from Feb. 15 through March 31, with a limit of two mountain lions for each.

Each season will close immediately once the quota of two mountain lions is met. If a female is killed, both seasons will close immediately.

The Prairie unit, which covers about 85 percent of the state, drew the most opposition at a public hearing Friday. The season would be open year-round with an unlimited number of permits issued by the commission.

Ron Klataske, manager of the 5,000-acre Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary in north-central Nebraska, objected to hunting in the Prairie unit, saying it "will open the floodgates" for hunters who violate game laws.

But Deputy Director Tim McCoy told the Journal Star that the commission received numerous calls urging it to establish a hunting season to manage the growing mountain lion population.

Regardless, next year's cougar season will be a test run.

"We may do it once and never again," commission chairman Norris Marshall said.

Stacy Swinney, a Dawson County commissioner from Chadron, said most residents in the Pine Ridge area support hunting the animals, saying there have been a growing number of human encounters with mountain lions. Some people fear attacks if nothing is done, Swinney said.

But Angelika Byorth, of Lincoln, said she is considering filing a lawsuit against the commission over the new hunting season.

"The gene pool of the re-emerging mountain lions in our state is too small to sustain a viable population, let alone all-out hunting," she said.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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