On June 22, 2018, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) approved a mountain lion hunt for 2019. The hunt will allow trophy hunters to kill up to eight mountain lions in the Pine Ridge region of Nebraska.
While hunting will not be permitted anywhere else in the State, the Pine Ridge area has been broken into two sub-units. Each sub-unit has a quota of up to four mountain lions, no more than two of which can be female. Once the quota has been met in a given unit, hunting will then be closed in that unit for the season. However, if the quotas have not yet been met in each sub-unit by the end of the initial season, an auxillary season will then be held in which hounds will be permitted to pursue and kill the remaining quota.
The initial season will run from January 1, 2019 through February 28, 2019. If the auxilliary season is held, it will run from March 15-31, 2019, or until the quotas have been met. A lottery will be held for Nebraska residents for a chance to obtain a mountain lion permit. The fee for the lottery is $15.00. If a hunter is selected for a permit, he or she will not need to pay any additional fees.
The NGPC approved the hunt despite the outcry of wildlife enthusiasts, researchers and conservation groups alike. With an estimated population size of around 59 total mountain lions, including kittens, the approval of the hunt goes against a significant body of evidence that suggests hunting a population of this size is not only unsustainable, but could also lead to an increase in conflicts with people, pets and livestock.
The Commission stated that this hunt "will allow the population to remain resilient and healthy, while halting growth or moderately reducing the population size."
In 2014, NGPC held their first hunt in the State since mountain lions were protected as a game species. During that hunt, a total of five mountain lions were killed by trophy hunters -- three males and two females. In 2014, the estimated number of mountain lions in the state was significantly lower than it is today, with around 22-33 total individuals. Future hunts were postponed due to an unforeseen number of mountain lion deaths caused by vehicle strikes, incidental trapping and other forms of human-caused mortality. The premature hunt, coupled with the additional unforeseen human-caused mortality, caused the already small population of mountain lions in the State to drop dangerously low levels.
As in 2014, Nebraska's mountain lions still face additional human-caused mortality. As such, removing 20% of the adult population with the knowledge that an additional percentage of the population will die to additional human causes of mortality, is not sustainable.
Before the hunt is official, it will need to be approved by the State Attorney General's Office and Nebraska's Governor, Peter Ricketts (R).