Mountain Lions should be managed through hunting, senator LeRoy Louden says
by Christine Scalora, Nebraska News Service – 2/2/2012
Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth introduced the bill, LB928, with the support of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, to allow the commission to establish a hunting season to manage the mountain lion population.
The Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on the bill in a public hearing on Feb. 2. Proponents said that letting mountain lions be hunted would help manage the mountain lion population, protect livestock and ease the minds of people who live near mountain lions. Opponents said hunting mountain lions was unnecessary, many pointing out that current law already allows mountain lions to be killed in certain situations.
Current law allows the commission and local law enforcement to kill mountain lions that are posing a safety threat to humans, said Sam Wilson, who was representing the Game and Parks Commission. Mountain lions can also be killed by people if they are being attacked or stalked by the animal, and livestock owners can kill mountain lions that are killing their livestock, Wilson said.
Joe Herrod, representing the Nebraska Council of Sportsmen’s Clubs, was another one of the five people to testify for LB928.
He said that the mountain lion was “a wonderful part of nature” and that it needs to be managed.
“This is a win-win-win-win all the way down the line,” he said. “It’s good for the game commission. It’s good for the land owners. It’s good for the hunters, and it’s just a great management tool to put in place.”
Another proponent, Ron Klataske, manager of the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, supported the bill but wanted all of the funds collected from the permits to be used only for mountain lion management.
“If the concept of purposeful management of mountain lions is retained in LB928 and properly administered by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, it could lead to the type of positive wildlife stewardship that is highly commendable and beneficial for the species,” he said.
Angelika Byorth of Lincoln was one of four people to testify against the bill and said it amounted to selling raffle tickets to kill mountain lions.
“I know the commission is struggling for funds or they would not dream of questionable ways to get money,” she said.
She also pointed out that animals that are a threat to people or livestock can be killed under current law.
David Thomson, a retired farmer from Palmyra, called the bill “appalling.”
“I just think it’s a shame that they have to put them on a list to hunt,” he said. “It’s just all about money. I think that they’re animals; they have a right to live.”
Thomson said he never had any problems with mountain lions as a farmer, and that he has never even seen a mountain lion.
After the hearing, Wilson said that money was not a factor for the commission and that it would amount to a tiny percentage of the budget. Hunters could pay up to $25 for an application, and the permit would be awarded through a lottery system.
Wilson said that the commission’s data estimates that there are between 13 and 28 mountain Lions in the Pine Ridge area of northwestern Nebraska.
The commission is conducting another genetic survey in May to see if the population of mountain lions is increasing or decreasing in the area, Wilson said. If the population is increasing, the commission would likely open a hunting season, he said.
Louden said he has been working on this issue for about three or four years. It’s a serious safety concern for people living near mountain lions, he said. Although there have been no mountain lion-related deaths in Nebraska, Louden said he doesn’t want to wait for one to happen.
“This is something that we need to have some method and some control in here to take care of it now,” he said.