Nebraska may allow hunting of mountain lions

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission soon will decide whether to let people hunt mountain lions in the state.

The Lincoln Journal Star reported ( that the proposal to be considered at the commission's May 24 meeting would allow a total of three big cats to be killed over two short periods of one season in parts of the Nebraska Panhandle.

One hundred permits would be issued by lottery to Nebraska residents and one permit will be auctioned to a resident or nonresidents. Proceeds from the auction would go to mountain lion management and research.

Officials said mountain lions all but vanished from Nebraska by 1890. The cats have been making a comeback in the northwest corner of the state and have traveled as far east as Omaha. The commission estimates the Pine Ridge area has a population of 22 animals.

State law already allows people to kill mountain lions if they stalk, attack or show unprovoked aggression. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission mountain lion expert Sam Wilson said 36 mountain lions have been shot or ran over since 1991.

The proposed regulations would let hunters hunt mountain lions with firearms and archery equipment in parts of Box Butte, Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux counties that are north of the Niobrara River and west of Nebraska 27. The open season would run Jan. 1-Feb. 9 and Feb. 15-March 31. Hunters would need to check daily to see whether the season is still open.

Wilson said three mountain lions could be hunted and killed during the season. Only one could be a female cougar. The season would end early if a female puma were hunted before reaching a total of three cats.

Nebraska Wildlife Federation has not yet taken a position on the proposed regulations, but an official said the group has some concerns.

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