mountainlion

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission recently approved regulation changes for a 2021 mountain lion hunting season open to residents in the state.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved regulation changes this month for a 2021 mountain lion hunting season in the state.

Sam Wilson, carnivore program manager, said the season is open only to residents of Nebraska.

The state held regulated harvest seasons in 2014, 2019 and 2020.

Staff recommended a mountain lion season in the Nebraska Pine Ridge that will have a maximum harvest of four mountain lions which is down from eight in 2020. In addition, the number of permits available will be reduced by half compared to 2020.

Wilson said the density of mountain lions in the Pine Ridge region, based on their 2017 estimate, was higher than most areas in the mountain west.

The commission also documented five instances of livestock depredation during 2017 and 2018. None had been documented previously.

He said the commission held public meetings in western Nebraska and residents in the Pine Ridge region indicated that they wanted a harvest season and reduced mountain lion density due to concerns for livestock, big game populations and safety issues.

The 2019 and 2020 harvest seasons were designed to provide harvest opportunities while halting growth or moderately reducing the population size.

“The most recent population estimate in 2019 of 34 mountain lions in the Pine Ridge is now within staff objectives, so the harvest limit was reduced to maintain the population at or near the present level,” Wilson said. “We presently have a resilient, healthy and socially acceptable population of mountain lions that is in balance with habitat and other wildlife species.”

The 2021 Season 1 in the Pine Ridge Unit, which no longer is divided into subunits, will be from Jan. 2 to Feb. 28.

Before Feb. 28, the season will close immediately if either the annual harvest limit of four mountain lions or sublimit of two female mountain lions is reached.

There will be 320 permits issued via lottery only to Nebraskans and hunting with dogs will not be allowed.

If the harvest limit is not reached in Season 1, an Auxiliary Season will be held March 13 through March 31.

The season will close immediately if either the harvest limit or sublimit is reached.

Unsuccessful Season 1 hunters may apply to convert the permit to an Auxiliary Season permit. There will be one permit issued for each mountain lion remaining in the harvest limit. Hunting with dogs will be allowed.

The bag limit for each permit is one mountain lion.

Mountain lions are native to Nebraska but were extirpated by the early 1900s due to unregulated hunting, trapping, poisoning and decimation or prey species.

As prey populations recovered in the 20th century due to protection by game laws, mountain lions did as well. They expanded from the Mountain West into parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

The proposed mountain lion regulations can be viewed at nebraska.gov/nesos/rules-and-regs/regtrack/index.cgi.

Margaret Slayton can be reached at margaret.slayton@newspressnow.com.