Fewer than 60 pumas make up Nebraska’s largest population of pumas, based in the Pine Ridge region. Despite this number, the state’s Game and Parks Commission has proposed a hunting quota that would allow the killing of 20 percent of the population’s adults and subadults—or up to eight cats, including four females.
Panthera is opposed to this proposed puma hunt. The state’s current population is too small to support sustainable hunting, and overhunting small, most-easterly populations of pumas may effectively stop their natural eastward expansion and could cause extra conflict with humans.
Nebraska has estimated its largest population of pumas to be 59 animals in this region. Generally, a population is about 30 percent kittens, so at 59 animals, we can assume about 40 are independent adults in the process of looking for a territory or actually living in the Pine Ridge area.
History suggests this quota may be too high. In 2014, Nebraska launched its first puma hunt on an even smaller population, and subsequently halted the hunt due to unforeseen mortalities in the population. This is exactly our point: You can’t add additional hunting pressure on small populations already suffering mortality from other causes. The public backlash over the initial hunt was high, and State Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha launched a campaign and signature license plate series to educate the public about puma conservation. It has become one of the most popular plates in state history.
Overharvesting of small eastern populations of pumas slows the eastward recolonization of pumas into areas where they were previously exterminated—and slows expansion and recovery within Nebraska. The eastern expansion of pumas is an important metric showcasing the successful management of the species in the West over the last 50 years, and should not be jeopardized by hunting small populations. Puma populations rebounded across the west of the United States and Canada after 1965, when wildlife managers in nearly every western state stopped paying state bounties for killing pumas and introduced managed puma hunting with strict limits in restricted seasons.
The proposed hunting season would be held from January 1 until February 28, 2019, with a second season running in March if the quota is not met. Please act by June 21 to add your voice to the chorus of dissent and prevent this unsustainable quota from becoming a reality.
To learn more about pumas, the threats they face in the wild, and how Panthera intervenes, click here.
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