The wild mountain lion goes by many names- puma, panther, catamount, cougar, and even “ghost cat.” They begin hunting at just six months and use ambush tactics to trick their prey. They are top predators in North America and South America. These fierce carnivores keep deer and rabbit populations at bay and prevent them from destroying plant-filled habitats.
But do they reside in Nebraska? Let’s find out!
Are There Mountain Lions In Nebraska?
According to Nebraska Wildlife experts, there are Mountain Lions in the state of Nebraska.
Mountain lions are native to the United States of America. The whole country had a thriving population of cougars, until the 20th century. This is when states began to view them as nuisances that threatened their livestock and farms. These wild cats were then hunted out of existence in many eastern states. Today, most of their population is concentrated in the western parts of the country.
Nebraska too had lost most of its original mountain lion population. However, once the state granted them the status of “game species,” cougar hunting became regulated and less frequent.
This kickstarted their gradual return to the state. They started coming in from neighboring states such as Colorado and Wyoming. Although their numbers are small, they are slowly adapting and settling down in different parts of Nebraska.
How Many Mountain Lions/Cougars Are In Nebraska?
Mountain lions are nicknamed ghost cats for a reason. They live off the radar, away from humans and civilization. They are solitary in nature, and usually travel and hunt alone. Counting the actual number of cougars anywhere is difficult, so scientists can only make estimates.
Nebraska cougars began to reappear in the state around 1991. Since then, the sightings increased and there have been 100 confirmed ones. The estimated number of cougars that actually live in the state is around 22-59.
Where Do Most Mountain Lions Live In Nebraska?
Most of the Nebraskan mountain lions live in the Pine Ridge region. Located in the state’s northwest corner, this arc-shaped region has plenty of rugged landscapes. It’s almost 100 miles long and contains a few hundred square miles of pine forests.
When it comes to their habitat preferences, Pine Ridge ticks all the boxes. It has rough wooded areas which are perfect hiding spots for these hunters. And, it has plenty of deer and other prey to keep their bellies full.
Apart from Pine Ridge, a small population of cougars has colonized parts of Niobrara River Valley and the Wildcat Hills.
Also, Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions In the U.S.
Mountain Lion Sightings in Nebraska
Nebraska’s Omaha has seen a number of sightings in 2023. The first confirmed sighting was on July 24th, near 114th and Q Streets. There have been multiple sightings of the same lion since then. Nebraska Game and Parks officials believe that the animal is moving towards the south, along Papillion Creek.
In 2022, there was also an instance of a mountain lion from Nebraska being spotted in Iowa and Illinois. It traveled through three states until it was finally captured and put into an Indiana sanctuary.
Mountain lion sightings are not that common. There aren’t that many living in Nebraska, to begin with. However, as more and more begin to recolonize the state, the chances of running into one may also increase.
Can you kill a mountain lion in Nebraska?
Yes, you can hunt and kill a mountain lion in Nebraska. The state allows the recreational killing of this wild cat. The Pine Ridge region hosts an annual hunting season. You can use rifles that adhere to Nebraska’s hunting regulations, or you can shoot them with archery equipment like longbows and crossbows.
Apart from hunting, you can kill a mountain lion if it ever attacks you, or someone around you. This would be considered as self-defense. If you’re a farmer, and there’s a pesky cougar that’s “stalking, killing, or consuming” livestock on your property, you are allowed to kill it to safeguard your surroundings.
However, whatever the case may be, any encounter must be reported to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
What To Do If You See A Mountain Lion In Nebraska?
Seeing a mountain lion in Nebraska is as rare as the blue moon. However, with recent sightings in Omaha and other areas, it’s safe to know what you should do if you ever see one.
A mountain lion usually has tan or tawny fur. They are 3-4 times the size of an average house cat. They have white underbellies and chins, and the tips of their tails are black. If you see a wild animal that has these features, it could be a mountain lion.
Make sure to always keep a distance between yourself and the cougar. Slowly back away from it, but keep facing it at all times.
If the cougar starts to walk towards you, remain calm. Don’t panic and run away. Instead, stand your ground and show it who’s boss. Stand up as tall as you can, raise your arms, and speak to it in a loud voice. You can also scare it off by throwing things around you- stones, rocks, twigs, or even tools.
What Other Big Cats Are In Nebraska?
If you ask a Nebraskan whether they live amongst wild cats, they may say yes. However, not many will know that there are three different types of them. Apart from mountain lions, Nebraska is also home to bobcats and Canadian lynxes.
Bobcats are the most common wild cat in Nebraska. They are usually 2-3 feet long and can weigh up to 35 pounds. Their fur is usually brown with black spots, but it may grow grayer in the cold winter months. In Nebraska, bobcats are classified as furbearers. This means you can legally trap and hunt them for their fur.
The Canadian lynx is a mid-sized cat that’s mostly found in Canada and northern American states. Its height and weight are similar to that of a bobcat. However, it has extremely thick fur and large paws. The latter helps them easily navigate through snow-covered paths.
Like the mountain lions in Nebraska, the Canadian lynx disappeared in the 20th century. Only recently have they begun resurfacing in different parts- most likely as visitors from some of the bordering states.
Also, Read About Mountain Lions in Montana
And that was everything about the Mountain Lion in Nebraska. I hope this article answers all your questions.