CHADRON, Neb. — This could be Nebraska's first and last mountain lion hunting season, State Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm said Sunday.
Haar, a member of the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee, said during a stop in Chadron that he expected Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers' Legislative Bill 671 to pass. The legislation would repeal the 2012 law that authorized the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to conduct cougar hunts.
In exchange, Chambers won't block the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's request for additional parks maintenance funding. That measure is Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery's LB 814.
“This is politics,” Haar said. “I think it makes sense. It's a compromise.”
Haar said he visited the Pine Ridge to hear firsthand from people about their encounters with mountain lions.
He visited with a woman who lives near Chadron who turned around in her garden to see a cougar watching her from across the patch. He also met a man who shot a mountain lion that appeared to be stalking him last year.
“I can see the concern,” Haar said.
Chambers' bill would not change the state law that allows people to shoot a cougar in self-defense or to protect livestock.
Haar said the challenge for Game and Parks will be to manage cougars without hunting. Safety must be the top priority, he said, followed by managing the natural reintroduction of mountain lions to the state. Hunting, he said, will have to be the last priority.
But he added: “We may have to give up on hunting.”