Nebraska’s first mountain lion hunt could also be last

‘It was the first time he had ever seen a mountain lion.’ [Too bad he couldn’t just enjoy the experience, instead of ruining it for all others and ending the life of the cat.]

By Robert Gearty

Published March 27, 2014

William “Paul” Hotz shot this 102-pound mountain lion days after Nebraska’s first sanctioned hunt of the animals began. (Courtesy: William “Paul” Hotz)

A grammar school teacher who killed a Nebraska mountain lion in the state’s first cougar hunt could also be the state’s last hunter to bag one of the trophy cats.

William “Paul” Hotz, 33, may earn that distinction if a bill halting future hunts becomes law.

He was one of three Nebraskans to kill a mountain lion after state issued permits to hunt the big cats for the first time this winter. The bill to end the hunt was passed this week by the Nebraska State Senate.

Gov. Dave Heineman has until the weekend to sign the bill into law or veto it. His spokeswoman, Jen Rae Wang, told the governor is reviewing the bill and has not yet made a decision.

Mountain lions are native to Nebraska but disappeared in the late 1800s after settlers hunted them in massive numbers. The first confirmed sighting in the state in more than 100 years took place in 1991. Over the next two decades, their numbers increased, particularly in the northwestern part of the state.

The state Legislature passed a law to hold a cougar hunting season in 2012 with the aim of keeping their numbers in check in Nebraska’s rugged Pine Ridge region. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission believes the region is home to about two dozen mountain lions.

The commission said hunters could kill four mountain lions in Pine Ridge but that if a female cougar was killed before the quota was filled, the season would end.

Hunters shot two male cats in January. One of the hunters paid $13,000 to obtain a cougar hunting license at an auction. The other hunter won his permit in a lottery.

Hotz was also a lottery winner along with 99 other hunters who were allowed to hunt cougars from Feb. 15 to March 31.

He and a friend started hunting on Feb. 26. They immediately got lucky when they spotted a big cat on a hillside near the South Dakota border.

“We had a good amount of snow two days earlier and that helped,” he said.

It was the first time he had ever seen a mountain lion. “You can spend days in the pines searching and calling and never see a cougar,” he said.

Hotz shot the cougar in the neck from a distance of about 250 yards with his 25.06 Remington rifle.

He described the hunt as a “once in a lifetime experience.”

The female mountain lion he shot had been tagged as a cub in Wyoming. The cat was five years old and weighed 102 pounds.

Because it was a female, Hotz’ kill ended the state’s hunt.

If the cougar hunt halt becomes law, Hotz would go down as the last Nebraskan to kill a mountain lion.

Hotz said he is not so sure he approves of the bill.

“I think honestly having a season is a better way to manage them than not,” he said.

The effort to end Nebraska’s mountain lion hunt was led by Omaha State Sen. Ernie Chambers, a long-time hunting opponent. Chambers said the relatively small size of the mountain lion population in Pine Ridge didn’t warrant a state-regulated hunt.

“I think it goes more to extermination than to appropriation of wildlife management,” he told

His legislation still permits killing a mountain lion to protect humans or livestock.

At a State Senate hearing on the Chambers bill in January, opponents included representatives from the Nebraska Sportsmen’s Foundation and other hunting groups.

Stacy Swinney, a Dawes County Commissioner, told senators she opposed the bill because Nebraska has a “serious mountain lion problem.”

“We now have a growing, reproducing number of one of nature’s most fearless, dangerous predators, and they walk through our homesteads at will day or night,” she said.


7 thoughts on “Nebraska’s first mountain lion hunt could also be last

  1. “We now have a growing, reproducing number of one of nature’s most fearless, dangerous predators, and they walk through our homesteads at will day or night,” the mountain lions and wolves and grizzlies coyotes and sage grouse said.

    Sally, are you listening to the animals’ stories in the lower 48?

  2. Pingback: Nebraska’s first mountain lion hunt could also be last | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

  3. “Managing ” mountain lions does not need to be done Mr Hotz
    But humans ‘managing ‘ ‘their own numbers certainly does …
    Why do we not see that they ( mountain lions) understand the “carrying capacity” of the land and are a self sustaining species while Homo sapiens do none of these necessary standards to keep our environment healthy and whole… Please stop killing the mountain lions get your own house in order!
    Please don’t sanction the hunt … You are disrupting and disrespecting the rights of nature. She sustains us all

  4. I hope for your cougars this hunt is cancelled. What strikes me is the fact that this man is a “Grammar School Teacher” who considers himself lucky to have killed another creature? This man is not a good role model 😦

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