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Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
2200 North 33rd Street
Lincoln, Nebraska 68503
Dear Commissioners,

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 2019 Nebraska Mountain Lion Hunting season.

Regarding the Mountain Lion Hunting season, Nebraska Game and Parks has stated that, “The proposed season would allow the population to remain resilient and healthy, while halting growth or moderately reducing the population size. This would initiate a reduction of the population density in the Pine Ridge to one similar to that of other states that allow mountain lion hunting.” The Cougar Rewilding Foundation has provided research previously to both the commissioners and to Game and Parks biologists on the peer-reviewed effects of sport hunting quotas that exceed the mountain lion’s 14% average annual reproduction rate, effects including increased infraspecific killing by ascendant subadult males, increased infanticide, and increased conflicts with pets, livestock and people. The current proposal quota of eight males or four females represents up to a 20% take of the estimated 40 adult cats in the Pine Ridge. More specifically, the typical ratio of males to females in a given population is 1:2, a ratio confirmed by our correspondence with Nebraska Game and Parks. Taking eight males represents two-thirds of the Pine Ridge’s adult male cats, creating great potential for the very conflicts noted in overhunted mountain lion populations.

“Halting growth or moderately reducing the population size” is not managing for a resilient and healthy mountain population: it is a recipe for increasing conflicts. Despite the concern of some Nebraskans, the safest mountain lion population is one at full density, where unmolested, resident adult toms are permitted to do their jobs policing the population. Sacrificing adults toms, while relieving existentially some Nebraskans, removes the police.

The Cougar Rewilding Foundation is not opposed to sustainable mountain lion hunting. However, because the 2019 Nebraska Mountain Lion proposal rejects peer-reviewed research and invites conflict for pets, livestock, people and for mountain lions, we recommend scrapping the proposal entirely. At an estimated sale of $9,600 for mountain lion permits, Nebraska Game and Parks is undervaluing highly potential revenues from Nebraska’s mountain lions. We recommend that Nebraska Game and Parks take a page from its Bighorn Sheep Management program. There is no scientific reason to manage/hunt mountain lions any differently than bighorns.

Create a lottery and an auction for mountain lion hunting permits identical to the senescent bighorn hunting season to take two mountain lions annually, a system with the potential to increase Nebraska Game and Parks revenues by several hundred thousand dollars. Additionally, as evidenced by the wildly successful sale of mountain lion state license plates, Nebraskans value their big cats. Much like the popularity of bighorn watching in Nebraska, regions like Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve and Big Bend National Park are noted destinations for puma-related tourism. Containing just two elusive resident panthers, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge conducts educational and panther tracking tours which draw 8,000 visitors a year who spend about $13 million in the local economy. Tourism for the rarely seen eastern wolf generates $37.5 million annually and has boosted the economy in eastern North Carolina by 19%.

As the likely source of pioneering females reaching states east of the prairies for the first time, and boasting three of the seven mountain lion breeding colonies east of the Rockies, Nebraska is the capitol of mountain lion prairie recovery. Create mountain lion tourism centers in western and central Nebraska – like the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota – celebrating Nebraska’s puma recovery that could generate $millions as national mountain lion-related tourism destinations.

The Cougar Rewilding Foundation would welcome the opportunity to partner with Nebraska Game and Parks in creating and administering a program to feature its rare cats as an effective and sustainable resource for conservation and rural economic development through year-round wildlife tourism, wildlife watching, tracking and research.

Sincerely,

David Furedy, President

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