Its official. Nebraska has held its lottery, as well as a special auction hosted by the Nebraska Big Game Society. Now we know exactly how many Nebraskans want to hunt mountain lions and what a big money-maker for the state it really is.
The answers to those questions are not many, and not very much.
According to 2012 census data, Nebraska is home to 1.856 million residents. This is nearly a million more than its northern neighbor South Dakota — where all the lions are coming from. Out of that total, the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation
estimates that only 115,000 or 1 out of 16 Nebraskans hunt. That number drops to 86,000 and 1 out of 21 Nebraskans when you only count those who hunt "big game" (deer, elk or wild turkeys).
Nebraska Game and Parks officials have stated that the objective for allowing mountain lion hunting is to provide hunters recreational opportunities. To achieve that objective, the state has spent untold thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of dollars preparing for the big event: their first ever mountain lion hunt.
But to what end?
The state lottery only attracted 395 participants and raised just $5,925. The Nebraska Big Game Society's special auction did a little better money-wise by raising $13,500 from one big spender, but the state will probably lose more than that when the special gifts that were offered along with the permit are deducted from the donor's income taxes. What's more, this special once-in-a-lifetime event only enticed 70 big game bidders: not a whole lot of interest there.
So that's $19,425 in hunting revenue generated, and at a stretch, far less than 500 or 1 out of 3,712 Nebraskans that actually want to kill one of Nebraska's estimated 22 mountain lions.
This hunt is not very popular and it's causing the state to lose money. So why is it happening?
Big game hunter Tom Ferry, the winner of the special auction, believes that "hunters are the biggest conservationists." He also believes that these so-called "conservationists" get to call the shots on deciding the fate of wildlife.
"They have a saying in Africa," Ferry said. "And it's true here, too: If it doesn't pay, it doesn't stay."
So, once again, that begs the question: why is this hunt happening? It can't be for the money. A look at the 2011 National survey notes that Nebraskan's non-consumptive activities, such as bird watching, generated $43 million more in revenue for the state than that produced by all of Nebraska's hunters — big game or otherwise — during the same time period. What's more, Nebraska is going to lose big time with this particular hunt, money it can ill afford. They also can't say that the public wants a hunt. The number of willing participants is barely a blip on the statistical radar.
The only explanations that come to mind for this inexplicable action are possibly the ego boost that former State Senator, LeRoy Louden got when he shoved Nebraska's lion hunting bill through the Legislature over the objections of environmentalists, and of course, the rigid stance the state game commission always takes: hunting is needed to "manage" wildlife.
The bottom line: this hunt isn't good for Nebraskans nor their wildlife, no matter what some might say.
Nothing can stop Nebraska's upcoming hunt. Nobody in authority will admit that this hunt is a mistake. Maybe something can stop future lion hunts, but to achieve this goal you need to do two things.
If you are a Nebraskan:
1. Help us build a Nebraska lion constituency by becoming a member
of the Mountain Lion Foundation. And,
2. Contact us
directly and volunteer to become a local, grassroots mountain lion activist.
If you live in a different state:
1. Do all of the above. Remember mountain lions are threatened almost everywhere they live. Nebraska isn't the first and it won't be the last Midwestern state where game commissioners will want to implement a lion hunting season even before there is a sustainable population.
Together we will stop the killing.
To learn more about lions in Nebraska, click here to visit MLF's Nebraska state page