The Mountain Lion Foundation celebrated a monumental victory in 1990 with the passage of California's Proposition 117, which outlawed the hunting of mountain lions throughout the state. However, there are still legal methods for killing our state's apex predator, namely through depredation permits. If the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) determines that a mountain lion was responsible for a depredation event (i.e. death of livestock such as sheep, goats, or pigs), the affected party may be granted a permit to contract the killing of any lion within a certain radius -- it doesn't even have to be the individual responsible for the depredation.
According to the 989 permits issued and 441 mountain lions taken from 2012-2016, many people aren't shy about seeking revenge with this eye-for-an-eye policy. A misconception that MLF has been fighting for years is the notion that killing mountain lions directly reduces conflict with humans -- it actually does the opposite. Most lions that prey upon livestock are inexperienced, transient young males looking for a territory of their own. Indiscriminately killing established older males opens up opportunities for those young dispersing males to come through and potentially cause more trouble. A lot of folks don't buy this explanation, but luckily for the lions a pair of 12 year olds and a very special organization do.
Alyssa and Jaden Morgan are members of the Trabuco Trailblazers 4-H Club, which is part of a larger network of youth organizations that encourages kids to participate in raising livestock and learn about modern agricultural practices. Tragedy struck the Trailblazers earlier this year in March when eight of their prized pygmy goats, who they spent hours with each day preparing for fairs and competitions, were killed by a mountain lion. It's a shock and a heavy blow for anyone to lose a member of their family, let alone for a group of kids to process the death of their companions from a wild animal attack. A depredation permit could have easily been issued, but the girls and their mother, Tanya, instead showed compassion for the felines they share the land with and proceeded with an open mind.
The Morgans not only chose not to take out a depredation permit, but have continued to work with MLF over the past year to improve 4-H curriculums regarding pen and enclosure safety. On December 6th Tanya, Jaden, and Alyssa spoke on behalf of mountain lions at the California Fish & Game Commission meeting in San Diego, CA alongside MLF Executive Director Lynn Cullens, explaining their situation and how they've turned their personal loss into a teaching opportunity for 4-H families everywhere. Their testimony and cooperation with MLF has been instrumental in spreading the message about how to keep one's animals safe in lion country and will undoubtedly save the lives of untold numbers of pets, livestock, and mountain lions across the West.
You can watch the Morgans and Lynn Cullens testify at the commission meeting here.