LINCOLN — Sen. Ernie Chambers said he wouldn't give up, and Friday he made good on his promise to try again to stop the hunting of mountain lions in Nebraska.
He introduced a bill that would eliminate the hunting seasons of the big cats, also known as cougars, by striking mountain lions from a law that allows the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to regulate hunting seasons of various game animals.
He also will try to repeal a bill that allows for management of prairie dogs, including on private property. In addition to being opposed to killing prairie dogs, he said, poison is being used in some cases, which is dangerous to other animals.
The number of mountain lions killed since last year is large, Chambers said, and there's no way Game and Parks could justify a hunting season this year.
"And now the number (of cougars) being as small as it is indicates that if there is to be management ... Game and Parks has the wherewithal to manage this relatively small population," he said.
Last year was the first that the commission scheduled three hunting seasons, and five lions were killed — two males and a female in the Pine Ridge and a male and female outside of Pine Ridge. There also have been deaths of lions in Nebraska from other causes.
One was illegally shot and left in the Pine Ridge National Forest south of Chadron. One was illegally killed by a hunter from Iowa with a bow and arrow, Chambers said, and he was fined only about $500.
Game and Parks officials said no decision has been made regarding a hunting season for 2015. The deaths of mountain lions in the past year will be considered when making future management decisions, according to a column in the Journal Star.
"The responsibility of Game and Parks is to find the most reasonable middle ground to protect the species' long-term persistence in the state while allowing some appropriate level of hunting along the way," the agency said.
Chambers was successful in getting a repeal passed last year, but then-Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed the bill and an override vote fell short.
He said even if Game and Parks doesn't set a hunting season this year, he will continue on his mission to stop it.
He has been told, he said, that Cabela's will oppose his bill to stop mountain lion hunting. According to legislative lobbying records, the firm of O'Hara Lindsay and Associates represents Cabela's.
"They want to play hard ball. Well, they're going to find out they came to the right man for that," he said. "I can't let my lions be handled in this mercenary fashion."
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