LINCOLN (AP) — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will soon decide whether to let people hunt mountain lions in the state.
The proposal to be considered at the commission's May 24 meeting would allow a total of three big cats to be killed over two short periods of one season in parts of the Nebraska Panhandle.
A lottery would issue 100 permits to Nebraska residents, and one permit would be auctioned off to a resident or nonresident. Auction proceeds would go to mountain lion management and research.
Officials say mountain lions had all but vanished from Nebraska by 1890. But in recent years, the big cats have been making a comeback in the northwestern corner of the state, and they have traveled as far east as Omaha.
The commission estimates that the Pine Ridge area has a population of 22 mountain lions.
State law already allows people to kill mountain lions if they stalk, attack or show unprovoked aggression toward humans.
Sam Wilson, mountain lion expert for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said 36 mountain lions have been shot or run over since 1991.
The proposed regulations would allow permit holders to hunt mountain lions with firearms and archery equipment in parts of Box Butte, Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux Counties that are north of the Niobrara River and west of Nebraska Highway 27.
The open season would run Jan. 1 through Feb. 9 and Feb. 15 through March 31. Hunters would need to check daily to see whether the season was still open.
Wilson said three mountain lions would be allowed to be killed by hunters during the season. Only one could be a female. The season would end early if a female were killed before the total of three cougars was reached.
The Nebraska Wildlife Federation has not yet taken a position on the proposed regulations, but an official said the group has some concerns.
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