The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved staff recommendations for 2023 mountain lion season at its June 17 meeting in Lexington.
Commissioners approved a mountain lion season in the Pine Ridge similar to 2022, with a maximum harvest of four cats, with a sublimit of two females. The number of permits issued via lottery will be lowered from 320 to 200. This change is an effort to boost hunter satisfaction by increasing the probability of a longer season. The harvest objective is to allow the mountain lion population to remain resilient and healthy, while halting growth or moderately reducing the population size. The most recent estimate for the Pine Ridge population from the 2021 genetic survey is 33 mountain lions.
The Commission also approved a 2022 river otter trapping season. The season will be Nov. 1, 2022, through Feb. 28, 2023, or close earlier once 125 otters have been harvested, all other checking requirements will remain the same as last year.
Additionally, the commissioners approved changes to wildlife regulations that will:
- Allow for parcel identification numbers to be used on limited landowner hunting permits beginning January 2023.
- Make it unlawful to possess night vision scopes while hunting game animals and game birds.
- Clarify language to allow elk hunters to hunt with a centerfire rifle during the November firearm deer season.
- Add language to make it illegal to create a baited area on lands owned or controlled by Game and Parks.
- Make it mandatory to check all turkeys after Feb. 1, 2023.
- Allow antelope taken during the October firearm season to be checked in via telephone or internet.
- Clarify language that animals trapped must be removed when checking traps.
- Add the U.S. Forest Service to federal lands where it is unlawful to set body-gripping traps with a jaw spreader larger than 5 inches, with exceptions.
- Changing the Novice Hunter Education Program for upland game birds to be open to all ages and extend the dates.
- Clarify language in the Hunters Helping the Hungry program on record keeping and reimbursement processes.
The commissioners also approved changes to sport fishing regulations that remove grass carp from the list of species that is unlawful to possess or transport. This eliminates a conflict, as grass carp is legal to sell and stock in private waters. Another change amended the list of water bodies where live baitfish may be possessed or used. It is unlawful to possess live fish other than fish legally harvested from the water body. This is to minimize the risk of introduction of invasive fish into new or renovated waters.
Water bodies added to the list where it is illegal to possess or use live baitfish are:
- Crystal Lake, Adams County
- West Cozad WMA, Dawson County
- Standing Bear Lake, Douglas County
- Wagon Train SRA/WMA, Lancaster County
- East Sutherland WMA, Lincoln County
Water bodies removed from the list where it is illegal to possess or use live baitfish are:
- Heartwell Park Lake, Adams County
- Victoria Springs SRA, Custer County
- Lincoln Park Pond, Nuckolls County
Commissioners rejected staff recommendations for a 2023 wild turkey season. Recommended changes to regulations and orders, if approved, would have reduced the spring season personal permit limit from three to two, lowered the fall bag limit from two to one, shortened the fall season to Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, and required all turkeys be checked via phone or internet beginning with the spring 2023 season. The commissioners recommended a public hearing on the matter in the August Commission meeting.
Wildlife biologist Bob Meduna was recognized for his 45 years of service to Game and Parks.
Staff also provided a report on the Aquatic Habitat Program and an update on communications efforts in west-central Nebraska.