The second portion of Nebraska's inaugural mountain lion hunting season closed early Wednesday with the death of a 5 1/2 year old, 102-pound female lion in Sheridan County. An ear-tag on the dead lion helped identify the animal as originating in South Dakota.
The death of this third lion preempts legislative efforts by Senator Ernie Chambers to stop Nebraska's 2014 mountain lion hunt. Senator Chamber's bill LB 671 will continue through the legislative process, and if successful, will remove the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission's authority to authorize a 2015 mountain lion hunt.
Unfortunately, LB 671 does not change the classification of mountain lions in Nebraska. Mountain lions will still be listed as "game animals," and as such, could sometime in the future once more be threatened with a hunting season.
In the meantime, although the hunt in the Pine Ridge — the portion of the state with a breeding population of mountain lions — has closed, the Prairie region will remain open until December 31st. The Prairie makes up most of Nebraska but it is not ideal lion habitat. There is no limit to how many mountain lions may be killed in this region.
Nebraska's indigenous mountain lion population was originally wiped out in 1890 after an aggressive campaign by settlers to remove the predator species with poison and unregulated hunting. As many as 22 mountain lions are estimated to currently reside within Nebraska's borders. The majority of these animals are likely immigrants from the Black Hills region of South Dakota.