By Janet Skinner
On the first day of bill introductions Omaha Senator Ernie Chambers introduced bill (LB671), just as he promised, to eliminate provisions of a law that relates to the killing/hunting of mountain lions. The bill has caused much controversy and confusion because of the misconception that you would no longer be able to protect yourself if threatened by a mountain lion.
Section 2. Section 37-559 (1) states that you can protect yourself, livestock poultry and your land from a predator such as badger, bobcat, coyote, gray fox, long-tailed weasel, mink, opossum, raccoon, red fox, or skunk. A lot of the confusion is due to the stricken out part of Section 2 37-559 in LB671 that gives you the right to protect yourself from a mountain lion. (2), which is stricken out in Chambers’ bill, states ‘Any farmer or rancher owning or operating a farm or ranch, or his or her agent, may kill a mountain lion immediately without prior notice to or permission from the commission if he or she encounters a mountain lion and the mountain lion is in the process of stalking, killing, or consuming livestock on the farmer’s or rancher’s property.’
Although Sec. Section 2 37-559 is stricken out, when the bill is presented in front of Legislation it will remain intact if the bill is passed. Chambers’ concern is the hunting of mountain lions, which he does not agree with.
In Senator Chambers’ explanation of why he drafted the bill this way, he stated “When I present the bill to the committee my amendment will say ‘reinstate the stricken language.’ Here is why I drafted it like that. Some Senators are unaware that the law already provides all those protections and they might not take my word for it, so by putting it in the green copy, I can refer to it on the floor and say ‘that is the language in the current law. You don’t need any hunting of this miniscule number of animals.’ The bill will simply repeal the statute of the authority to hunt.”
You can view Chambers’ bill at http://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/Intro/LB671.pdf
The bill (LB928) was introduced back in 2012 on behalf of the Game and Parks to allow hunting seasons in part to manage the game animal by Sen. Leroy Louden of Ellsworth, which was passed.
Senator Chambers is angry with the fact that The Game and Parks Commission has set a hunting season for mountain lions, and there are those who agree with Chambers with concerns about the small population in the area and mother lions being killed, leaving the young to fend for themselves. If the young do not have their mother teaching them the laws of nature, they might become a nuisance to the area and some do not think these animals pose a threat to livestock. There have been no reports of a mountain lion killing cattle. There have also been allegations that the hunting season was started because the Game and Parks Commission was struggling with funds, but according to the Game and Parks, all the money generated from the hunt goes back into mountain lion research. Chambers is also wanting to repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act.
Senator Davis has a different opinion on the issue than Chambers, and during my conversation with him he stated, “It seems to me when you live 400 miles away it is easy to make a judgement of what is right and wrong. When you live within the community you really deal with it in a more personal manner.” He went on to talk about if the supply of the animal is stable and growing, we would need to have some control over it and sees no reason Nebraska shouldn’t have a hunting season for mountain lions. He does not believe that a mountain lion has never killed any livestock and with the deer population down they pose more of a threat. They are large animals and need to eat.
Senator Davis also commented on the measure to repeal the act on managing prairie dogs, stating “This concerns me. We need to have control over those animals.”
Charlie Hamilton, fourth generation rancher of Gordon, agrees with Sen. Davis. He said as long as it is regulated it will be no different than any other hunting season and believes he has the right to protect himself and others if threatened by a mountain lion on his own property. As far as the prairie dogs go, Hamilton stated, “It is just a big rat like the ones in New York.”
Ross Elwood, Rushville, has the same beliefs as Davis and Hamilton, and is encouraging those in the community to write to the Senators on these issues.
When asked his thoughts, Kyle Kruger, Yard Foreman at Gordon Livestock, replied, “As nature will take care of itself through natural food chain and/or diseases, people have let things cause such an unbalance in the natural order that something needs to be done to counteract our own effects on nature.”
These bills will be brought forth to the Natural Resource Committee at the end of the month. Do your research and call or write the Senators. Your opinion won’t count if it is not heard.