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Resident Mountain Lion Population Grows Slightly

LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska’s resident mountain lion population has grown slightly, staff told the Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners at their meeting Jan. 18 in Omaha.

Sam Wilson, Game and Parks’ furbearer and carnivore program manager, estimated the reproducing population of mountain lions in the Pine Ridge of northwest Nebraska in 2012 was 22, compared to 19 in 2010. The estimates were derived from studies in which dogs were used to detect mountain lion scat, which were then analyzed through DNA fingerprinting.

The scat detection survey identified the presence of a female mountain lion in the Niobrara River Valley of north-central Nebraska – the first documented female mountain lion outside of the Panhandle. It is not known if this is a resident animal or a disperser that may have moved on to other areas, Wilson said.

In other business, the commissioners approved funding recommendations for the 2013 Recreational Trails Grant Program. They approved $246,000 for a trail bridge renovation by Lancaster County; $239,079 for trail construction by the City of Schuyler; $271,514 for trail construction by the City of Fremont; and $28,000 for purchase of a tractor to perform Cowboy Trail maintenance by Game and Parks.

The commissioners also:

— approved fisheries regulations regarding aquaculture regulations and nonresident fish dealers and exportation, importation and possession. Fish of the Salmonid family, instead of eggs only, may be imported into research facilities in Nebraska, if approved by the Fisheries Division. This will enable pharmaceutical companies to conduct research on new aquaculture therapeutic drugs and vaccines.

— approved sport fishing regulations. A change to the daily bag limit of striped bass, white bass and white bass hybrid (wiper) limits anglers fishing inland waters to one fish 16 inches or greater but does not apply to the Missouri River and Lewis and Clark Reservoir.

— approved four sections of fisheries regulations to change all references of tiger salamanders to barred salamanders.

— approved wildlife regulations regarding changes in legal take of some species of reptiles and amphibians.

— approved a memorandum of understanding between Crow Butte Land Company, the Thompson Family, and Game and Parks. As part of the Thompsons’ sale of land to Crow Butte Land Company, the company will donate 40 acres of that land, including mineral rights, to Game and Parks. The donated land will be an addition to Ponderosa Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Dawes County.

— approved changes in a lease agreement between Game and Parks and the Nebraska Field Trial Association (NFTA) involving a tract of land on Branched Oak Reservoir WMA in Lancaster County. The changes increase the acres leased to the NFTA from three to 17, increase the annual rent from $300 to $400, and extend the lease expiration date from 2025 to 2045. Commissioners also amended the agreement to require the NFTA to provide insurance coverage.

— removed the “preserve” status of an area of Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. That fenced preserve had been established to maintain wild game animals and birds indigenous to the state. It had been stocked with American bison and elk. Due to the resurgence of free roaming elk and the increased occurrence of wildlife diseases, the preserve status was removed so that area could be used by the public for other recreational pursuits.

The commissioners also heard an update by the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District on the Pigeon/Jones Creek Recreation Area near Hubbard in northeast Nebraska. Construction of a dam that will impound a 226-acre lake is underway. The area, which also will include 520 acres of recreation land, may be ready to open in 2015 or 2016.

The commissioners also elected their officers. Norris Marshall of Kearney was elected chairman, Lynn Berggren of Broken Bow vice chairman and Jerrod Burke of Curtis second vice chairman. The offices became effective following the meeting.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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