Farmers could shoot mountain lions if bill passes

By Ellen Hirst

Published: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Updated: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mountain lion killing is prohibited by Nebraska state law, but a bill in Nebraska Legislature proposes that families should be allowed to protect their livestock in the event of a mountain lion attack.

If a mountain lion were to attack or attempt to attack livestock on a farmer or rancher’s land, the farmer or rancher, after obtaining a 30-day permit, would be allowed to hunt the mountain lion.

Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth introduced the bill because he believes mountain lions are a problem for many farmers and ranchers in Nebraska.

On Jan. 17, Louden personally chased a mountain lion off of his property in Ellsworth.

“Why, I was back at the ranch helping the boys feed the cattle, and I saw these herded cattle were distressed considerably,” Louden said. “Then before you know it, there’s a mountain lion we had to go run off.”

Currently, if a farmer or rancher catches a mountain lion “in the act” of preying on livestock or threatening his or her property, it is legal to kill the mountain lion in defense. If passed, this bill would allow killing mountain lions suspected of preying on livestock or posing a threat to people.

“If you have a problem animal,” Louden said, “which not all of them will be, you need to have a way to do something about it.”

Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., said crushing mountain lions’ population further would be devastating to the ecosystem. She said she believes predators should be left alone because when humans don’t intervene, nature balances itself out.

The Florida panther, which was nearly hunted to extinction, is now protected, but only after serious ecological effects.

“It did such damage to our environment. If you have a healthy mountain lion population, you should keep it,” Baskin said. “There was the overrunning of the deer population, as well as hogs. The hogs would chase down children; it’s just awful. By wiping out the panther, (it) couldn’t keep them in check.”

Louden said Nebraska’s overpopulation of deer would not be greatly affected by permitting the killing of certain predators. He believes the mountain lions couldn’t control the deer population, protected or not.

“You can’t thin the deer population out by turning more mountain lions out,” Louden said. “The Game and Parks Commission has the authority to lengthen the deer season and lower the prices of permits. There are better ways to deal with that.”

Louden also said there is evidence of a bountiful number of mountain lions in Nebraska, as they have been spotted with cubs and in rural and urban areas.

The bill suggests that people should be allowed to immediately kill any predator that poses an imminent threat. The permit would allow the hunting of problematic predators, by a farmer/rancher or assigned agent. Predators are classified as badgers, bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, long-tailed weasels, minks, mountain lions, opossums, raccoons, red foxes or skunks.

The permit-holder would be responsible for contacting the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to arrange the transfer of the carcass to the commission.

Baskin said mountain lions always prefer wildlife to livestock and only cause problems when humans confront them by invading their territory.

“Any time man steps into the picture and tries to balance nature, he just makes a bigger mess out of things,” Baskin said. “I think your state would be making a huge mistake to allow cougar hunting when cougars are such a necessary predator to keep the rest of the wildlife in check.”

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

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