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Commissioners approve mountain lion, river otter seasons

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved a 2021 river otter harvest season and a 2022 mountain lion hunting season at its June 11 meeting in Chadron.

The Nebraska River Otter Management Plan was adopted by the Commission. The goal of the plan is to maintain resilient, healthy and socially acceptable river otter populations that are in balance with available habitat and other wildlife species.

Otters, at one time on the state Endangered List and then the Threatened List, were delisted in 2020 after years of research showed otter populations had grown and expanded to nearly statewide distribution. The current population is estimated to be more than 2,200. The reintroduction and recovery of river otters is one of the greatest examples of conservation success in Nebraska over the past 40 years.

Changes to Commission orders and regulations were approved to implement a harvest season that will allow the trapping of river otters, which are classified by state statute as a fur-bearing animal. The season will be Nov. 1, 2021, through Feb. 28, 2022, or close earlier once 75 otters have been harvested.

The Commission also approved a mountain lion season in the Pine Ridge Unit. The season dates are similar and the harvest quota will be identical to 2021, with a maximum harvest of four mountain lions or a sublimit of two female lions. The Season 1 Pine Ridge Unit dates will be Jan. 2-Feb. 28, 2022, and if necessary, an Auxiliary Season will be March 12-31, 2022. There will be 320 permits issued via lottery only to Nebraskans.

The objective is to allow a harvest opportunity for mountain lions that allows the population to remain resilient and healthy while limiting future growth or moderately reducing numbers.

Commissioners approved:

  • changes that allow the Game and Parks to manage public recreation on 234 acres of land owned by Pheasants Forever, Inc. which is adjacent to Commission-owned Jack Sinn Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County. These additional acres will be open to public access and follow the same regulations as the adjacent WMA.
  • changes to sport fishing regulations regarding the application and purchase of paddlefish preference points and where a paddlefish permit is valid.
  • changes that added DeFair Lake WMA in Grant County to the list of water bodies where it is illegal to possess or use live baitfish while fishing.
  • changes to wildlife regulations that currently prohibit the possession of a firearm while archery and muzzleloader hunting. This change would allow these big game hunters to lawfully carry a handgun with a barrel of no longer than 5 inches.
  • changes to clarify hunting restrictions pertaining to the use of bait for big game and turkey.
  • changes to establish and implement special depredation seasons for deer, antelope and elk.

The Commission ratified the Operating and Capital Improvement budgets for fiscal years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.

The Commission also formed a search committee for the Commission’s director position, which will become vacant when Jim Douglas retires in November.

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