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.