For the third year in a row, Nebraska wants to open a small and declining population of mountain lions to trophy hunters
Nebraska’s mountain lions have suffered enough. They were wiped out of existence in the state during the 1900s because of trophy hunting, and it was only in 2007 that biologists documented a new mountain lion kitten in the state’s Pine Ridge region. Unfortunately, the small population of lions now living in that area is once again in decline, and today, there are only about 34 mountain lions left in Pine Ridge, about half as many as there were two years ago.
Given this alarming drop, you would think wildlife officials in Nebraska would be pulling out all the stops to ensure these native carnivores survive and thrive. Instead, after allowing trophy hunters to put this tiny population of mountain lions in their crosshairs last year and again this year, Nebraska Park and Game Commission officials have proposed allowing more lions to be trophy hunted in 2021.
The harebrained proposal, which could result in the localized extinction of this species, needs to be stopped in its tracks. Only 22 of the 34 lions in the Pine Ridge region are likely old enough to be legally hunted. The proposal would allow trophy hunters to kill up to four mountain lions, generating less than $5,000 for the agency during the 2021 hunting season. But the actual death toll could be much higher: trophy hunters often end up killing mother lions, who leave their cubs in the den and venture out to find food. Orphaned cubs would be left to die of starvation, dehydration or predation by other animals.
Nebraska wildlife officials argue that hunting the animals is necessary to manage the species, but science and research have shown, time and again, that this is not true. Mountain lions regulate their own numbers just fine, without human interference.
Besides decimating fragile populations, we know that trophy hunting lions can cause many other problems for this species. In California and Florida, low numbers due to trophy hunting have led to inbreeding among lions. This has resulted in genetic deformities in the population and sterility among some male mountain lions, which in turn could lead to an even smaller population that can no longer sustain itself.
Nebraska, with its wild spaces, is well situated to harbor and support hundreds of healthy, flourishing mountain lions. If managed well, mountain lions in neighboring states could potentially come into the state and help prevent inbreeding. But this won’t happen if Nebraska continues to sanction a killing spree. Since January 2019, 15 mountain lions have already died in the state, including 12 from trophy hunting. This could also mean that the current population of mature mountain lions in Pine Ridge is likely much smaller than the estimated 22 lions reported by Nebraska Game and Parks.
Last year, the commission posted a video of a newborn mountain lion kitten left alone in a forested den by the mother lion who, it turned out, was moving his siblings to another den and came back for him at the end of the day. Nebraskans were smitten and the video was viewed thousands of times, showing that the state’s residents would no doubt prefer their native wildlife alive in the wild, not as a stuffed mount or a rug in someone’s living room.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will review the 2021 mountain lion trophy hunting proposal during their meeting on June 19th. If you live in Nebraska, please read the proposal and leave a comment here by June 17th. Tell the commission not to approve this proposal and, instead, end all trophy hunting of mountain lions in the state.