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Mountain Lion Hunts Once Again Debated in Nebraska

Opponents of mountain lion hunting in Nebraska contend the animals play a vital role in the ecosystem. (Art G./Flickr)
Opponents of mountain lion hunting in Nebraska contend the animals play a vital role in the ecosystem. (Art G./Flickr)
February 27, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska state senator is taking another run at legislation to protect mountain lions. The Natural Resources Committee heard testimony last week on Legislative Bill 448, which would remove provisions related to the hunting of mountain lions from the Game Law.

It's the fourth time Sen. Ernie Chambers has introduced the bill, after failed attempts in the last three sessions. He believes hunting mountain lions is cruel and barbaric.

James Cavanaugh, counsel for the Sierra Club in Nebraska, said he agrees, pointing out that the animals are not considered a food source and most avoid humans.

"There's no real compelling reason to hunt them, and there are many compelling reasons not to,” Cavanaugh said. "In addition to their tiny, endangered population, they're a noble, beautiful animal and add to our healthy ecosystem's functioning."

Experts estimate only between 15 and 22 mountain lions live in Nebraska, mainly in the Pine Ridge region. Hunting them was made legal in 2012 after there were several reported sightings, and a limited hunting season was held in 2014.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has been researching the mountain lion population and contends the hunt helps regulate the animal's population.

But Cavanaugh said he believes nature should be allowed to take its course. He explaned that, as an apex predator, mountain lions serve an important function by keeping the wild food chain in check.

"Their primary diet consists of other wild animals, including deer and antelope and elk, raccoons, all the way down to field mice,” Cavanaugh said. "They don't normally prey on a domesticated animal."

Some farmers, ranchers and other residents have expressed concerns about mountain lions as a potential threat to humans, cattle and pets. But opponents of the hunt point out that there has never been a documented case of a mountain lion attack on a human in Nebraska.

Cavanaugh noted that the top three animals that have been responsible for harming humans in the state are cattle, horses and dogs.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE