Your letters in support of the bill will help to convince Nebraskans of the international significance of this tiny lion population, a stepping stone to repopulating the Eastern U.S., where lions were wiped out in the 19th Century.
Mountain lion hunting was made legal in 2012 by Senator LeRoy Louden's LB 928. At the time, NGPC biologists estimated Nebraska was home to only 22 mountain lions.
"I was told that fears led to the creation of a hunting season for these, what I consider to be regal animals," Senator Chambers told reporters. "And these fears were engendered by the possibility or likelihood of these animals eating the grandchildren of Nebraskans." That notion is baseless, he said, because there is an inconsequential number of mountain lions in the state and those few "have better taste than that."
"There is no need or justification whatsoever to hunt these animals," Chambers added. "It's cruelty. It's barbaric. I will do what I can to stop it."
Along with much of the Midwest, mountain lions were a bountied predator and extirpated from Nebraska in the 1890's. One hundred years later, Nebraska confirmed its first mountain lion. The young lion likely dispersed from the small, newly-established breeding population in the neighboring Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.
Ideal mountain lion habitat is limited in Nebraska but 2013 research indicated lions were breeding in the Pine Ridge and there may have been 22 resident cats. Using river valleys, Nebraskan lions can move East and into states that do not currently have breeding populations.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission initiated a limited sport hunting season on lions in 2014. Combined with other human-causes of mortality, 16 lions were killed, leaving an just 6 lions in the entire state, according to the Agency's estimate. In January 2015, Nebraska suspended lion hunting to conduct more research on the population.
With NGPC declaring they would open the state's first mountain lion hunting season in 2014, Chambers introduced a bill to repeal Louden's LB 928 and put a stop to lion hunting in Nebraska.
Chambers LB 671 -- a bill to eliminate provisions relating to hunting and killing of mountain lions -- made it all the way to the Governor Heineman's desk, but was vetoed. The bill died a week later, just a few signatures short of overriding the governor's veto.
After his original legislation died, Chambers proclaimed, "the war is not over," and in 2015 introduced LB 127 to stop the hunt. LB 127 would have removed the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's (NGPC) authority to open lion hunting seasons.
Unfortunately, with a vote of 8-0, Legislative Bill 127 was indefinitely postponed on January 12, 2016.
The given reasons? Senator Schilz, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, commented that NGPC needs to be able to use hunting as a tool to control wildlife. Other members said that if the legislature banned the hunting of mountain lions, they may be pressured to outlaw the hunting of other species in the future.
These ridiculous arguments directed at a population of fewer than 20 lions illustrate the outrageous lengths to which hunting advocates are willing to go to further their political ambitions.
Following the committee action, Chambers indicated immediately that he intended to introduce the bill yet again, and has done so with LB 961. Chambers vowed that if the committee kills this one too, they can expect to see an end to lion hunting amended into other bills.
MLF has sent a thank you letter to Senator Chambers for his tireless efforts to protect mountain lions in Nebraska. We have also signed onto a letter with ten other organizations to the Nebraska Legislature showing our support for Chambers' legislation to ban lion hunting in the state.
What YOU Can Do
Write a letter of your own to Senator Chambers encouraging him to keep up the fight for America's lion and let him know he has your support. You don't need to live in Nebraska! Make it clear that these lions are critical to the repopulation of mountain lions in the Eastern United States, and therefore belong to us all.
Senator Ernie Chambers
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
NOTE: Senator Chambers does not maintain an email address for public commments.
You can also write to others in the Nebraska Legislature and the members of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and ask them to stop mountain lion hunting in the state, forever.