LINCOLN – The 2021 mountain lion hunting season in the Pine Ridge closed Jan 24 when the harvest limit of four (three males and one female) was met. Season 1 opened Jan. 2.
The harvest of mountain lions allows the population to remain resilient and healthy, while halting growth or moderately reducing the population size. This maintains the population density in the Pine Ridge at a similar level to that of other states that allow mountain lion hunting.
Mountain lions (commonly called cougar or puma) vary in size and weight. Males (100 to 170 lbs.) are larger and heavier than females (60 to 100 lbs.). They are generally uniformly tan in color with a black tipped tail and dark fur on the back of the ears. Juveniles have dark spots and a dark-ringed tail until they are about 1 year of age.
Mountain lions occur in a variety of habitats, but prefer rougher, wooded areas. Cover for stalking and prey abundance are probably the most essential components of mountain lion habitat. Mountain lions are most active from dusk to dawn, but will also move during the day. Deer are the choice prey but mountain lions will also prey on elk, bighorn sheep, small game, porcupines, and a variety of other species. After killing their prey, mountain lions often drag or carry the carcass under a bush or tree. After feeding, the carcass is often covered with litter to avoid detection by scavengers.
Mountain lions are commonly identified by trail camera photographs, tracks, and feces.
Although mountain lions were part of Nebraska’s native fauna, they were extirpated by the end of the 19th century. Despite annual reports since the 1950s, no confirmed sighting was made in the state until the 1990s. In 1991 mountain lion tracks were found and shortly after, an adult mountain lion was shot by a hunter near Harrison, in Sioux County.