Since our previous post on the subject, we received a gracious response to our hunting proposal questions from Sam Wilson at Nebraska Game and Parks, including a clarification of the number of cougars killed in Nebraska for reasons of threat and safety: 19 since 1999. Most of those were cougars wandering into residential neighborhoods, where Nebraska maintains a “zero tolerance” kill policy. We suggested to Mr. Wilson that creating escape routes for the cats and hazing remain far safer protocols than discharging firearms where people live, and offered our first-responder training services.
We included Mr. Wilson’s feedback in our comments to Governor Heinemen, to Nebraska National Forest and Grasslands Supervisor Jane Darnell, and to the Commissioners.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
2200 North 33rd Street
Lincoln, Nebraska 68503
On behalf of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation’s officers, directors and members, I would like to thank the Commission for this opportunity to comment on the proposed Nebraska Mountain Lion Hunting season.
The revised proposal for taking four cats with a two-female sub quota (18% – 27% of the total population estimate) in the Pine Ridge National Forest with the goal of reducing the population, while instituting an unlimited year-round season for 85% of the rest of the state, is a recipe for increasing the very conflicts the proposal wishes to contain: conflicts with pets, livestock, people and mountain lions.
The Large Carnivore Lab at Washington State University has determined from fifteen years of research that taking more than 14% of a mountain lion population (greater than the average reproduction rate) disrupts mountain lion social order. The safest way to manage any mountain lion population is to leave it alone – mountain lions police themselves – taking problem individuals out at the source: the current Nebraska protocol. Washington State has adopted the Large Carnivore Lab’s recommendations – has adopted peer-reviewed 21st century mountain lion management.
Nebraska Game and Parks’ 2013 Recommendations for Mountain Lion Hunting conclude with this sentence:
“The Commission intends to manage mountain lion populations over time with consideration given to social acceptance, effects on prey populations, depredation on pets and livestock, and human safety.”
- Public attitude surveys measuring the social acceptance of mountain lions in Nebraska are absent from the Recommendations.
- Research on the effects of mountain lion predation on prey populations in Nebraska are absent form the Recommendations.
- Data on mountain lion predation on pets and livestock in Nebraska are absent from the Recommendations.
- Data on the threat of mountain lions to human safety in Nebraska is absent from the Recommendations.
Absent any examples in the Recommendations of “considerations” informing the proposed mountain lion hunting season, following is our brief review of the relevant research on these subjects:
- From our survey of public attitude studies in states with established mountain lion populations – including South Dakota and the residents of the Black Hills – the general public demonstrates wide majority support for mountain lion recovery and for not reducing mountain lion numbers.
- Mountain lion predation is not mentioned in any of the agency’s deer reports as a population factor.
- Neither Nebraska Game and Parks’ nor the Cougar Network’s data on mountain lion confirmations document a single incident of pet or livestock depredation in Nebraska.
- There have been no confirmed mountain lion attacks on a person in any of the Prairie mountain lion colonies east of the Rocky Mountains.
Absent such examples from the Recommendations – after twenty years of monitoring mountain lion dispersal/recolonization in Nebraska – begs us to question just when the Commission plans to begin to manage mountain lions based on the “considerations?”
Nebraska is now targeting for reduction a stable (by definition a population with little conflict) and recovering mountain lion population that has conducted itself admirably for a generation.
The Cougar Rewilding Foundation is not opposed to hunting based on sound science. But the hunting proposal for the Pine Ridge National Forest – a national forest owned by every United States taxpayer, not just Nebraskans – ignores both science and experience.
Why mess with a stable population?
The Cougar Rewilding Foundation urges the Commission to reject the Recommendations and adopt a proposal based on the peer-reviewed 14% population take, including cats taken for reasons of threat/safety.
Christopher Spatz, President
Cougar Rewilding Foundation