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Nebraska Game and Parks Commission meeting – cougar & otter hunting season

June 9, 2023 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Alert on mountain lions and otters


UPDATE:  NGP Commission passed the proposed cougar hunting rule changes. https://kearneyhub.com/news/expanded-mountain-lion-season-approved-in-nebraska/article_f2a3e344-06ff-11ee-80aa-4737c86f0c64.html)


Nebraska Game and Parks Commission meeting at Alma, Nebraska on June 9th, will consider the annual changes to the Nebraska Mountain Lion Season (Title: 163   Chapter(s): 004   Section(s): 037).   The hearing will start at 8:15 am and be in Alma, NE at the Alma Municipal Golf Coarse, 102 Dick Brown Memorial Drive.

 “ a public hearing will be held at 8:15AM to consider amendments to Title 163, Nebraska Administrative Code, Chapter 4 Wildlife Regulations Section 037 Mountain Lions; to add areas open to harvest, harvest limits, adjust the number of permits that may be issued during the lottery, and clarify checking requirements.”

For  more information contact Sheri Henderson at 402-471-5539 or sheri.henderson@nebraska.gov,

Written comment deadline is received at 1 pm CT June 7th and you can send comments to Sheri Henderson’s e-mail,

Changes for the 2024 Season 

  • • The number of permits issued per lion in the harvest limit has been increased from 50 to 80. This change is recommended by staff to increase local landowner/hunter satisfaction by increasing the probability of local hunters and landowners drawing a permit. 
  • • A Niobrara Unit has been created and a harvest of two mountain lions with a sub-limit of one female is recommended by staff. 

Nebraska has breeding populations at Pine Ridge, Niobrara and Wildcat Hills.   It used to only allow hunting at Pine Ridge. The staff has decided that Niobrara can now support lion hunting.  Pine Ridge is to have a harvest limit of 4 lions of either sex or 2 females and Niobrara is to have a harvest limit of 2 lions of either sex or 1 female.

What Nebraska does with its’ lions is significant to lion populations on Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST), Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST) & Yankton Sioux Tribe (YST) in SD.  OST has breeding lions & a hunting season for both tribal members & non-tribal folk & allows hunting with dogs w/ tribal guide.  RST likely has breeding lions & tribal members can hunt with furbearer license.  YST has resident lions and might have had breeding lions intermittently and there is no hunting.

Proposed NE regulation: – https://www.nebraska.gov/nesos/rules-and-regs/regtrack/proposals/2672.pdf

Public Notice:


Game & Parks Commission, P.O. Box 30370, 2200 North 33rd Rd. Lincoln, NE 68503-0370

Nebraska Game & Parks has a report called:    “Mountain Lion Recommendations” June 2023 . Ask Sam Wilson for a copy, sam.wilson@nebraska.gov, the report says:

“NEGP’s population estimates from 2021 indicate approximately 33 total animals (adults and kittens) were present in the Pine Ridge at the time of the survey. In addition to the population in the Pine Ridge, there are also resident populations in the Niobrara Valley and Wildcat Hills. On[e] instance of reproduction has been documented in northeast Nebraska but it will not be considered an established population unless additional resident females and instances of reproduction are confirmed. A few additional dispersing animals typically wander elsewhere in the state at any given point in time.”….

For the Pine Ridge area population it says

“The most recent population estimate (2021) for the Pine Ridge population is 33 total mountain lions, including adults, subadults and kittens. This estimate shows the population had been stable between the 2019 estimate of 34 animals and the 2021 estimate of 33. On target with staff goals for halting growth or moderately reducing abundance. “…….

“A limit of four (4) lions is appropriate to meet the management objective and corresponds to a maximum harvest rate of 12% of the most recent population estimate. “

How do they calculate that percent? It looks like 12% would be of all age groups, as 4 lions is 12% of  34 lions. Scientists  recommend  killing by humans (by any means) of only of 12% -14% of adult and sub-adults if you want to sustain the population (doesn’t include kittens).  NGP has not provided us with a kitten count in 2023 – we have to go back to 2022 data to find a kitten count.

The Pine Ridge population estimate for 2022  year was  33, with 10 adult females, 5 adult males, 4 each for sub-adult males & females and 10 kittens. So, 23 were available for hunting.  12% of 23 is 2.76 lions, 14% is 3.2 lions

About the Niobrara population they write:

“Resident reproduction has now been documented over nearly 100 miles of river valley and adjacent stream canyons. The Commission documented nine litters of kittens from six adult females over the previous 1.3yrs (Nov 2021 – Mar 2023). Twenty-one mountain lions have been marked (collared or ear-tagged) in the Niobrara Valley since 2019. The Commission presently has seven mountain lions with working collars in the Niobrara Valley (3 adult females and 4 adult males) and many additional unmarked animals have also been documented throughout the valley. Nine kittens were documented with the three collared females during the past year. Demographics of known individuals are consistent with a population of more than 20 mountain lions in the Niobrara Valley. “

IT also says:

A limit of two (2) lions with a sublimit of one (1) female is appropriate to meet the management objective and corresponds to a likely maximum harvest rate of <10%. ”  

Scientists  recommend  killing by humans (by any means) of only of 12% -14% of adult and sub-adults  if you want to sustain the population (this doesn’t include kittens). Thus we must subtract the 9 kittens and come up with 11 adult/subadults (11 adults/subadults is assumed as they don’t tell us the age of 4 lions.)   1.3 is 12% of 11 and 1.54 is 14%.

We worry about the small nature of this population and its’ sustainability.

The Mountain Lion Foundation has an 2023 discussion on this NE Lion management on their web page: https://mountainlion.org/us/nebraska/

Here is link to the OLD PHAS 2022 Alert – that has links to other alerts for NE cougars that can be used to write comments – as the issues stay the same, except they have added Niobrara. Also Oglala Sioux Tribes harvest of lions has increased.


Here is a link to our generic page on mountain lions: https://phas-wsd.org/cougar-alert/



Changes are also proposed to the Otter season order, to make it easier for trappers to process otter trapping records/season status.  The details  will be found at below link under proposed orders.

“Pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. Sections §§ 37-314, 37-315, 37-502, 37-701, a public hearing will be at 8:45 AM to consider amendments to Title 163, Nebraska Administrative Code Chapter 4, Wildlife Regulations Section 005 Wildlife-Game birds (not including turkey, coots and migratory waterfowl), Furbearers, Cottontail Rabbit to change the reporting and daily status checking requirements for a river otter harvest.”

They do mountain lion seasons as regulations and otters as Commission orders.

They have had 2 years of otter seasons and not many hunters, relative to what NGP expected,  are trapping otters.  Proposed otter order: https://outdoornebraska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/CO5-35-day-6-17-22-2.pdf

They are getting rid of the failsafe, that the season would close if 125 otters are trapped and they are just limiting the season by the season dates – not the number of otter taken. They are also limiting it by allowing only one otter per hunter .

“C05.02E Only one (1) river otter may be harvested per season, per valid permit holder.”

“C05.02G2 River otter – Open Season: November 1 through the last day in February”

This clause would be deleted:  (except the season shall close three days after the harvest closing trigger of 125 river otters is met, whichever comes first)

Rules, orders & regulations


June 9, 2023
8:00 am - 5:00 pm