On Saturday, December 1st, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife shot and killed two mountain lion kittens in Half Moon Bay.
The Department said attempting to tranquilize or capture the small cats was too risky and would put the public in danger. Wardens ultimately killed the pair, claiming it was, "absolutely the last resort for us."
MLF, the public, and wildlife rescue groups throughout California were disappointed and angered by the Department's unjustified and unacceptable treatment of a state protected mammal.
A necropsy revealed the kittens were starving, barely thirteen pounds, and were only a third of the age estimated by the wardens who shot the cats. This killing of house cat sized four-month-old kittens for supposed public safety highlighted a major problem with California Fish and Wildlife's mountain lion policies.
Immediately after the Half Moon Bay incident, Senator Jerry Hill contacted the Mountain Lion Foundation and began drafting a bill to ensure future mountain lion encounters are handled more appropriately.
On January 25th, Senator Hill held a press conference in San Mateo to announce his mountain lion public safety bill. The bill (SB 132) will require the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to utilize nonlethal options when responding to mountain lion incidents when there is no imminent threat to human life.
The nonlethal procedures CDFW will be required to utilize under Hill's legislation include capturing, pursuing, anesthetizing, temporarily possessing, temporarily injuring, marking, attaching to or surgically implanting monitoring or recognition devices, providing veterinary care, transporting, hazing, relocating, rehabilitating, and releasing. However, the legislation still provides CDFW with the authority to kill mountain lions if the lion can reasonably be expected to cause immediate death or physical harm to humans.
The legislation also authorizes CDFW to develop partnerships with veterinarians, scientists, zoos and other individuals and organizations to work with state game wardens when mountain lions wander too close to humans. This is an important change since wildlife and nonprofit organizations throughout the state have the capability and experience to assist with mountain lion incidents.
"The safety of Californians is priority number one, but the law needs to be changed to give wardens more nonlethal options when dealing with the increasing number of mountain lion encounters in our neighborhoods," Hill said.
"Californians value mountain lions as the last remaining apex predator in the state; contributing substantially to environmental health. Senator Hill's legislation reflects those values and will help to ensure that mountain lions remain in the wild for future generations to appreciate," said Tim Dunbar, executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation.
On Saturday, December 1st, the California Department of Fish and Game shot and killed two mountain lion kittens in Half Moon Bay.
The Department said attempting to tranquilize or capture the 25 pound cats was too risky and would put the public in danger. Wardens ultimately killed the pair, claiming it was, "absolutely the last resort for us."
MLF, the public, and wildlife rescue groups throughout California are now calling out the Department, saying their actions were unjustified and unacceptable treatment of a state protected mammal.
Policies and procedures need to be revised immediately. Please help us in this endeavor by contacting California Department of Fish & Game Director Bonham.
Director Charlton Bonham
CDFG Office of the Director
1416 Ninth Street, 12th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please send MLF a copy of your letter and cc emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
For example, showing "blank stares" and "not running away when wardens drew near" is a natural instinct for scared mountain lion kittens.
Being unable to defend themselves or outrun a predator, a kitten's survival relies on the ability to stay still, quiet, and camouflaged in the brush until mom returns. This is not "abnormal behavior" as the department claims.
Stating they were "9 months old, [...] around 25-30 pounds" and may have been pushed out of the territory of an older lion are also characteristics that do not add up.
Based on weight, the lions were likely months younger than estimated, and kittens less than one year old are still entirely dependent upon their mother for food and care.
There is no excuse for this lack of knowledge by the department about mountain lions.
California wildlife rescue expert Jay Holcomb said that, although the wardens had to weigh the public safety issue carefully, trapping the animals would not have been difficult.
"Let's face it, these are cubs. They're easily capturable," said Holcomb, former head of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and current director of International Bird Rescue. "You can go to the store and buy some chicken and they'll be on it in a second. It's a no-brainer."
In addition to a simple baited cage, catch poles, net guns, and tranquilizers are also non-lethal options the Department should employ.
A spokesman for the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, which handles animal control in San Mateo County, said wardens put in a request Saturday for a pole syringe and tranquilizing drug but didn't follow through.
Wildlife rescue groups and veterinarians throughout the state are ready and willing to assist CDFG with mountain lion calls. Urge Director Bonham to utilize these (free!) resources for the benefit of California's wildlife.
The new policy should include:
These methods are currently being used by wildlife agencies in other states. It's time for California to catch up!
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The Mountain Lion Foundation, founded in 1986, is a national nonprofit organization protecting mountain lions and their habitat. The mountain lion is also known as cougar, puma, panther, and catamount.
We believe that mountain lions are in peril. Our nation is on the verge of destroying this apex species upon which whole ecosystems depend. Hunting mountain lions is morally unjustified, and killing lions to prevent conflicts is ineffective and dangerous. There is a critical need to know more about the biology, behavior, and ecology of mountain lions, and governments should base decisions upon truthful science, valid data, and the highest common good. Conserving critical lion habitat is essential.
Together, we can save America's lion.
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