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Commissioners approve a 2025 mountain lion season

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved staff recommendations for a 2025 mountain lion hunting season at its June 21 meeting in Ogallala.

For the first time, a hunting season will take place in the Wildcat Hills. A Wildcat Hills Unit was created, joining the existing Pine Ridge Unit and Niobrara Unit as areas that allow mountain lion harvest.

The Wildcat Hills Unit encompasses parts of Scotts Bluff, Morrill, Cheyenne, Garden, Kimball, and Banner counties. The objective for the unit is to provide a harvest opportunity for hunters that will keep the lion population resilient while slightly reducing their numbers.

The eastern boundary of the Niobrara Unit also is moved to U.S. Highway 281.

Game and Parks’ genetic surveys in 2023 estimate there are 70 mountain lions in the Pine Ridge, up from the last estimate of 33 in 2021. Surveys that will allow population estimates for the Niobrara and Wildcat Hills are presently being conducted. Twenty-seven mountain lions were documented in the Niobrara Valley during 2023, and 24 were documented in the Wildcat Hills.

Season 1 in all three units will take place Jan. 2, 2025, through the end of February. The season will end immediately in a unit if the annual harvest limit or female sub-limit is reached. The Pine Ridge limit will be 12 mountain lions with a sub-limit of six females, the Niobrara limit will be four mountain lions with a two female sub-limit, and the Wildcat Hills limit will be three mountain lions with a two female sub-limit.

Up to 960 permits could be issued by lottery in the Pine Ridge Unit, up to 320 permits in the Niobrara Unit, and up to 240 permits in the Wildcat Hills Unit. Permits will be available to residents only. An auxiliary season that allows the use of dogs would be March 15 through the end of March if the annual harvest limit or female sub-limit were not reached during Season 1 in any unit. A number of permits equal to the number of lions remaining in the limit would be issued by lottery to unsuccessful permit holders from that unit who apply for the auxiliary season.

To read the proposed regulations, visit and search “regulations.”

In other business, commissioners approved state park regulation changes that:

  • Create a $5 Active-Duty Military vehicle park entry permit for active-duty military personnel stationed in Nebraska. The permit will be for vehicles registered in or out of the state and will be available only as an annual permit starting Jan. 1, 2025. The permit shall be valid through Dec. 31 of the year it is issued. To qualify for the permit, an individual must present a military identification card denoting active-duty status and proof of being stationed in a Nebraska military base.
  • Allow the director of Game and Parks to authorize the replacement of any Nebraska Resident Disabled American Veteran lifetime permit.
  • Update language for state recreation trails, including encroachments on right-of ways.
  • Allow the use of Class I electronic bikes in state parks, state historical parks, state recreation areas and state recreation trails on designated trails unless otherwise posted. Class II and Class III e-bikes will be permitted as posted.

Commissioners also approved these fisheries regulation changes:

  • The no-live-baitfish restriction for Lake Wanahoo is removed.
  • At Two Rivers State Recreation Area Lake No. 5, also known as the trout lake, the time a trout tag is required to fish the lake is shortened by one month. Anglers no longer need to display a trout tag and they may release any caught trout.

In addition, commissioners approved:

  • the transfer of approximately 88 acres of land in Hall County adjacent to Mormon Island SRA from the Federal Highway Administration to Game and Parks to become an addition to Mormon Island; and
  • the permitting of hunting in some state parks and state historical parks for 2024 seasons.

Fisheries staff presented a report on Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala. The relative abundance of walleye at Lake Mac still is good. To maintain the fishery, more than 49 million walleye fry and fingerlings were stocked in 2022 and 2023. Alewife, a prey species for walleye, were sampled in July 2023, and it was estimated the baitfish’s population in Lake Mac was 59,868,702. Staff also reported 46% of the smallmouth bass sampled while electrofishing were Master Angler size.

Before the 2023 renovation of Lake Ogallala, sampling of the fishery revealed 67% of the fish by weight were common carp. One rainbow trout was sampled. Following the renovation, 56,113 rainbows were stocked, and the sampling catch rate for trout and yellow perch is 96 times higher than before the renovation.

Parks staff gave a review of Memorial Day weekend at Lake McConaughy SRA, including visitor demographics, and a look ahead to the Fourth of July holiday.

Staff updated commissioners on outreach taking place in west-central Nebraska. That includes programs such as Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, fishing programs for children, and communications through television, newspaper and Nebraskaland Magazine.

About Jerry Kane

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

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