LINCOLN — While the Nebraska Game and Parks
 is researching mountain lions in the state,
 motorists are showing their interest in the wild cats,
 forking over
 extra money to purchase mountain lion 
conservation plates.
To date, more than 8,700 people have chosen
 the mountain lion
 conservation specialty plates for their vehicles.
 The Department
 of Motor Vehicles has passed on more than
 $92,000 to the
Game and Parks Commission's
 youth wildlife education conservation fund.
The plates, which cost an extra $5 -- or $35
 for a special
message -- went on sale Oct. 1 after lawmakers 
approved a bill to create the plates sponsored
 by state Sen
. Ernie Chambers of Omaha.
Chambers introduced a bill again this year to
prohibit hunting
 of the animals, but the bill was not advanced
 from the Natural Resources Committee.
In the past six months, the plate's applications
have surpassed
 a previous top seller, military honors plates, 
by at least 3,000, said Betty Johnson of the
 Department of
 Motor Vehicles.
The Game and Parks Commission had a
 discussion of the
 plates during a report Friday of a study on the
 big cats led by Sam Wilson, program manager
of fur bearers
 and carnivores, at a meeting in Norfolk.
Mountain lions are primarily in three areas of
 the state: the
Niobrara River Valley, Pine Ridge and Wildcat 
Hills, although they've been spotted in a wide
variety of
 places. The commission is studying them to learn
 their habits and numbers and track their moving
 The research will run through 2019, Wilson said.

Nebraska's on the western edge of a large
of mountain lions that runs through the Rocky
 to California. A larger population than
 Nebraska's is
 north of the state in the Black Hills of
South Dakota.