Nebraska LB 127 comments needed by 2/26/15
LB 127 – Eliminate Provisions Relating to Hunting Mountain Lions
On January 9, 2015, Nebraska Senator Ernie Chambers introduced LB 127, a bill that would eliminate provisions related to mountain lion hunting and repeal the authority of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to hold a mountain lion hunting season. While the Game and Parks Commission voted against holding a 2015 season, citing a lack of information and research, the intent of the Commission is to resume hunting of mountain lions in the future. LB 127 would prevent future hunting seasons.
The bill is scheduled for hearing and discussion on February 26, 2015. Please use the form below to contact the Nebraska Legislature Natural Resources Committee and politely let them know you support LB 127. The form is addressed to the Committee members and will automatically sign your first name, last name, and location (this is required for your comment to be considered). All you need to do is enter a short message explaining why you support LB 127. Consider including one or more of the talking points listed below the contact form in your message.
KEY TALKING POINTS:
- In 2014, 16 mountain lions were killed in Nebraska, likely a significant percentage of the state’s population, which had been estimated to be between 15 and 22 in the known breeding population in the Pine Ridge Region. More noteworthy, however, is the fact that 10 of the 16 documented mortalities were females. Given that female mountain lions are pregnant or raising kittens for nearly 75% of their lives, one could infer that 7-8 of these females had dependent young. Orphaning is not palatable to managers, hunters, or non-consumptive users, yet it undoubtedly occurs when mountain lions are subjected to sport hunting.
- Research by prominent carnivore biologist Dr. Robert Wielgus of Washington State University found that high rates of mountain lion harvest resulted in increased complaints and conflict. These findings are being supported by emerging research in other states, too. As hunters remove older, trophy-sized lions from the population, inexperienced juveniles who are more prone to conflict with humans often replace these “well behaved” adults. The high rate of harvest in Nebraska in 2014 could be responsible for the frequency of mountain lion sightings in outlier areas.
- The safety of people, pets, and livestock is best ensured through education, conflict prevention, and effective emergency response plans. In states like Wyoming, Colorado and Washington (where the lion populations are far larger than in Nebraska), managers have successfully reduced cougar-human complaints and conflict by expanding outreach efforts and developing emergency response programs that target problem cats. Random culling via sport hunting will not make Nebraskans safer.
- Current best available science by Dr. Hillary Cooley (USFWS – Idaho), Dr. Eric Gese (USDA/APHIS – Utah), and a number of other researchers indicates that even extremely high harvest of predators has little long-term benefit for recovery of ungulate populations (the major culprit remains habitat loss –historic numbers require historic forage). Hunting the few mountain lions that are present in Nebraska will not improve the states’ ungulate populations.
- Many other states are able to accommodate and even celebrate the presence of mountain lions. Nebraska and Florida are facing similar situations as they choose protocols for managing small and relatively new lion populations. Florida, with human inhabitants numbering nearly 20 million, have a panther population of roughly 180 mountain lions that is afforded Endangered Species Act protections due to its small size and concerns over genetic diversity. Nebraska has less than 2 million people and less than 30 cougars. Targeted removal of ‘problem’ animals has always been the available safety mechanism in Nebraska by citizens and authorities alike. How then can Nebraska justify sport hunting of this tiny lion population?