LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers should prepare themselves for a catfight.
Members of the Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to advance a controversial bill that would allow the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to sell permits to hunt cougars. Legislative Bill 928, sponsored by Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth, will be considered by the full Legislature.
A portion of the northern Nebraska Panhandle called the Pine Ridge supports a small, reproducing population of mountain lions. Although several dozen mountain lions have been confirmed outside Pine Ridge over the past two decades, biologists believe those cats are transitory.
The commission wants to run a study this spring to determine whether the Pine Ridge population is growing. If so, it would like to be able to set a season and sell a few cougar permits.
Opponents of the bill said the cats have caused no problems with people or livestock in Nebraska and their populations aren't large enough to justify hunting. —Joe Duggan