Citing too many female lions killed in 2014, Sam Wilson, the Nebraska Game Commission's carnivore program manager, recently announced that Nebraska's moratorium on hunting mountain lions would extend at least through the 2016 hunting season.
In 2014, the Nebraska Game Commission, over objections from noted biologists and the conservation community, decided that a regulated hunting season was needed to properly manage the state's estimated lion population of around 22 animals.
By the end of the year, five lions had been shot by hunters, and an additional 11 had died from illegal hunting, traps or being hit by vehicles. Ten of the 16 lions killed by humans were females.
Due in part to the public outcry over those deaths, and worried about the legislative efforts of State Senator Ernie Chambers to remove the Commission's authority to even implement a lion hunt, the Commission placed a hunting moratorium on mountain lions, and a multi-year research project was initiated by Nebraska Department of Game and Parks (NDGP) to determine the size of Nebraska's lion population, its impact on prey species, and how lions move around and use habitat.
Wilson told the Commissioners that "It's [hunting] not off the table," but research results will dictate whether the Department's biologists recommend a future hunting season for the game animal.
Since the study was instigated last February, NDGP researchers have captured and radio-collared seven lions using cages baited with road-kill deer.
The study's researchers hope to collar as many as 15 mountain lions in the Pine Ridge, Wildcat Hills and Niobrara River Valley during the four-year research project.