Mountain lions are regaining footing in Nebraska as population numbers increase and more people are come into contact with them.
According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the mountain lion population is native to the state, but was once wiped out by settlers. In 1991, they began to recolonize in the Pine Ridge Area. Mountain lions are dispersing animals, so they tend to wander miles across the state.
"We have instances where we document mountain lions throughout the state of Nebraska. Some of these instances involve interactions with people. In some cases mountain lions are killed for safety reasons. In many cases they're simply documented and let go on their way," said Sam Wilson, Furbearer and Carnivore Program Manager.
Also known as the cougar, puma, panther or catamount, these large cats feed primarily on deer. Although human encounters with mountain lions are rare, it's best to be prepared in case you come face–to–face with one.
Wilson said to use common sense and never approach the animal. Leave an avenue of escape for the mountain lion, and similar to behavior of dogs, you shouldn't run away if you encounter one because that will trigger its instinct to chase. If you do get attacked, officials advise that you fight back because mountain lions are predators.
These elusive cats are protected year-round under game law in Nebraska. However, they may be killed if they pose a threat to people or attack livestock.
Sam Wilson and the Nebraska Game and Parks will be giving free presentations on mountain lions in Kearney on May 9 and at the Nebraska Game and Parks Expo on May 11. They will speak about the history of the animal, documents of their return, and the biology and research that has been done regarding mountain lions in Nebraska.