A bill to end Nebraska's mountain lion hunting season has cleared a first-round vote in the Legislature.
Lawmakers advanced the measure Friday on a 31-5 vote.
Sen. Ernie Chambers says he introduced the bill because the animals were native to the region, and they pose no real threat to humans. He says hunters only want to kill them for sport.
"I bill myself as the defender of the downtrodden. So I see animals as having no voice, no power, often nobody that cares, but we're all a part of the physical universe. And my obligation, as I see it, is to look over every aspect I can that needs looking after," he said.
Opponents say the mountain lion population should be regulated by experts at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Senators also expressed concerns over the perception of a change so soon after hunting the animals was made legal.
"We should allow that the legislature that put this in place a few years ago did what they were authorized to do. And I would hope that we aren't going to jump back and forth on issues like this and make it look like maybe we don't know what we're doing," said Ken Schilz of Ogallala.
The bill includes exceptions that allow farmers and ranchers to kill mountain lions that threaten their property. People could also kill the animals to defend themselves if attacked.
Two more votes are required before the bill goes to Gov. Dave Heineman.