Campaign Seeks to Give Wildlife Wardens More Non-Lethal Options for Mountain Lions

The recent shootings of two cubs prompts an effort to change standards for dealing with mountain lions that wander too far into human territory.

By Bay City News Service

Less than two months after state game wardens fatally shot two mountain lion cubs in Half Moon Bay, environmentalists, politicians and the public are pushing for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop new standards for handling cougars that come into contact with humans.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, plans to introduce legislation that will change California's laws to allow the department to partner with wildlife nonprofits to rescue injured or orphaned mountain lions that wander too far into human territory.

"The safety of Californians is priority number one, but the law needs to be changed to give wardens more non-lethal options when dealing with the increasing number of mountain lion encounters in our neighborhoods," Hill said.

It is currently illegal to rehabilitate mountain lions (not to be confused with bobcats) in California.

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In two separate high-profile encounters in San Mateo County since 2011, three mountain lions found themselves cornered in backyards and were shot and killed by game wardens out of fear for public safety.

Both incidents raised questions about whether the animals could have been tranquilized, trapped or somehow spared being destroyed.

"The people of California want alternatives to lethal action," Wildlife Emergency Services CEO Rebecca Dmytryck said.

Dmytryck, whose Monterey-based animal rescue group recovers and rehabilitates distressed birds and animals around the Bay Area, has formed a Mountain Lion Rehabilitation Committee, a group of wildlife experts that aims to develop a set of standards for rescuing mountain lions from situations where they can be safely removed and rehabilitated in privately-funded sanctuaries.

"This group emerged from the aftermath of the cougar incident in Half Moon Bay," Dmytryck said.

On Dec. 1, Department of Fish and Wildlife game wardens shot two malnourished 4-month-old mountain lions that had been spotted seeking shelter in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay.

The cats were initially thought to be larger than they actually were, and were believed to be posing a threat to residents and their pets, state fish and game officials said.

However, a necropsy concluded that the orphaned animals were hungry, each weighing less than 15 pounds.

Killing the animals caused a "tremendous outcry," Dmytryck said, and many believe the cubs could have been safely removed and rehabilitated if sanctuaries had been available.

Successful mountain lion rehabilitation programs have been established in Washington and Florida, where nearly a dozen panthers have been rescued and released, Dmytryck said.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Jack January 28, 2013 at 02:24 PM
Human territory? Apparently a territory where adult mammals with guns blast away at baby mammals without guns. Are there any other territories available?
Kevin Moore January 28, 2013 at 05:38 PM
To the best of my knowledge, hunting mtn lions has been illegal in California for quite a long time. Possibly why the mtn lions don't fear humans as much as they use to fear us. It would be good if the Fish&Game department had non-lethal options when they encounter mtn lions. If the cubs were hungry, it is possible that the mother was a poor hunter. The fastest human is slower than a slow deer. That is probably why the cubs were removed. How to avoid mtn lion conflicts. (It's better for the lions if you don't cause problems.) http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html
Carol X January 28, 2013 at 11:55 PM
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo is now my hero. The current attitude of, 'Um, we don't know how to safely remove them so let's shoot 'em' is indicative of ignorant and unevolved policy. I'm glad at least one politician seems to realize that.


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