LINCOLN — No state senators took aim Wednesday at legislation that could put a target on mountain lions in Nebraska.
Legislative Bill 928 won first-round approval without dissenting votes and with little debate.
The bill would give the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission authority to allow limited hunting of mountain lions, an idea that drew strong opposition at a public hearing.
But most of the legislative discussion focused on an amendment creating a program in which hunters could donate deer to food banks.
State Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln said hunters would be allowed to kill an additional deer if they donate money to the proposed Hunters Helping the Hungry program.
The donations would be used to pay meat processors to handle donated animals. The meat then would be given to food banks.
Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth said Game and Parks officials asked for LB 928 as a potential tool to control the state's small but growing mountain lion population.
They said they may consider selling a couple of permits, depending on the results of a new survey of the mountain lion population in the Pine Ridge area of northwest Nebraska.
Current estimates show that from 13 to 28 animals live in the region.
Although there have been more than 50 confirmed sightings of mountain lions outside the Pine Ridge, those cats are not believed to be part of an established reproducing population.