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Female mountain lion's death ends Neb. Panhandle season

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A hunter's killing of a female mountain lion has automatically ended the second season in the Panhandle area where it was taken.

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The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said the 102-pound animal was killed Wednesday in Sheridan County. Experts estimated the animal was about 5½ years old and said it didn't show any signs of recent motherhood. One of its ears had a tag from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

Season 2 in the Pine Ridge Unit was scheduled to run from Feb. 15 through March 31, with a requirement to end once one female or two mountain lions total were killed. One hundred lottery permits were drawn on Oct. 9 for Season 2, and only those permit holders were allowed to hunt.

The Game and Parks Commission has four units designated for hunting mountain lions. They are Pine Ridge in the northern Nebraska Panhandle, Upper Platte in the southern Panhandle, Keya Paha (kee-YAW' puh-HAW') in north-central Nebraska, and Prairie, which covers the rest of the state.

The first season in the Pine Ridge Unit closed when two male mountain lions were killed on Jan. 2.

This is the first year of state-licensed hunting of mountain lions, which are also called cougars, pumas or catamounts. And it may be the last.

Lawmakers last week gave initial approval to Sen. Ernie Chamber's bill that would end Nebraska's mountain lion hunt. In 2012 the Legislature approved mountain lion hunting.

The new measure includes exceptions for farmers and ranchers if mountain lions were to threaten their property, It also would allow people to defend themselves if attacked. But Chambers, of Omaha, said such scenarios are unlikely because the animals pose no real threat to humans.

Mountain lions are native to Nebraska, but they all but vanished in the late 1800s after settlers started poisoning and hunting them. The cats have been making a comeback in the northwest corner of the state and have wandered as far east as Omaha.