A young, female mountain lion has been unintentionally killed in a trap in northwest Nebraska.
The cougar was a sub-adult weighing about 85 pounds and appeared to be in good health, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said Friday.
As required by commission policy, the trapper called game and parks immediately upon discovering the mountain lion in a cable restraint trap in Sioux County. High pelt prices have led to an increased effort to trap bobcats and other furbearers, which may have contributed to the incidental capture of the mountain lion, said Sam Wilson, carnivore program manager.
Cougars sometimes become entangled in traps. At least three mountain lions were unintentionally caught in Dawes County in recent years. In February 2010, an 85-pound female was tranquilized and released unharmed. In January 2010, a 50-pound female kitten was released unharmed.
In December 2011, a 120-pound female was killed after it became entangled in a legal bobcat trap. Conservation officers generally try to tranquilize and release animals in such conditions, but it was determined that the cat would not survive if it escaped with the trap and stakes still attached.
The commission asks that fur harvesters immediately contact the agency if a mountain lion is incidentally trapped. Anyone with trail camera photographs or other evidence of mountain lions should contact the agency, Wilson said.
Nebraska's first mountain lion hunting season opens Jan. 1 in northwest Nebraska's Pine Ridge region. Wildlife biologists estimate 22 cougars live permanently in the Pine Ridge.