On Tuesday, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said it was changing its policy for issuing permits to livestock owners in those areas who are seeking to kill mountain lions. Until now, the permits have been automatically issued if the cat has attacked domestic animals. From now on, the applicant must first try at least twice to shoo the cougar away with nonlethal means.
Although the new policy applies only to the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountain ranges, it represents a fundamental shift in how the state issues what are known as “depredation permits.” Animal rights groups hope the policy may someday expand statewide, a prospect fiercely opposed by cattle and sheep ranchers.
In 1990, voters approved a ballot initiative that prohibited hunting of mountain lions. To appease livestock groups, the initiative’s backers included language in the law that says the state “shall” issue a depredation permit in the event a cougar attacks pets or livestock. The wildlife agency has always issued lethal permits. California issues around 218 of them every year, though typically less than half result in a kill.
A Sacramento Bee investigation published this fall revealed that since Proposition 117 passed, nearly four times as many lions are killed on average each year than were killed prior to the ballot measure passing.
The state cougar-killing policy came under fire in late 2016 after it issued livestock owners in Malibu a permit to kill a mountain lion known as P-45. The cat was blamed for rampaging through neighborhood llama and goat pens at night, massacring several animals at a time and leaving their carcasses to rot.
Biologists didn’t want the 150-pound cougar killed, because he had injected what they said was badly needed genetic diversity into an isolated population of a dozen or so lions hemmed in by two deadly freeways.
By somehow crossing the freeway and joining the lions on this urban island, P-45 had achieved almost celebrity status in Los Angeles. News that he was targeted for death outraged animal rights activists across the globe. A former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy, Wendell Phillips, shot the cat on his Malibu property, but it survived and its tracking collar shows he is still in the area.
In response, mountain lion advocates and biologists had pressured the wildlife agency to change its depredation permit policy in the Santa Monica range and in the Santa Ana Mountains, where cougars are similarly cut off from the outside and studies show the cats are dangerously interbreeding.
The fear is the lions in both ranges could eventually go extinct, and that people killing the cats when they attack livestock hastens the process. In the Santa Ana ranges, one 13-year study showed that more than a quarter of the cougars were killed from depredation permits.
“This amendment (to the state’s mountain lion policy) comes after many, many hours of discussion with stakeholders,” said Jordan Traverso, a spokeswoman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We believe we’ve struck a balance that takes into account the various attitudes regarding lions in the state, including the health of these sensitive populations.”
Lion advocates praised the state’s move.
“I think it’s a balanced and sensitive response to the conservation crisis in those two Southern California mountain ranges,” said Lynn Cullens, the executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation. “We applaud CDFW director (Chartlon) Bonham for taking the time to carefully consider the options that were before them.”
Cullens said the best way to protect livestock from attack is by placing them in fully enclosed, lion-proofed pens at night. Cullens said she hopes the policy shift starts a process that will eventually lead to fewer kill-permits statewide.
Animal welfare activists say that over the years, the depredation-permit policy has morphed into something they never saw coming back in 1990, when the main concern was for commercial ranching.
Now, almost all cougar kill permits are issued when the cats prey on pets owned by 4-H kids and other backyard livestock enthusiasts on the edge of suburbia who keep the animals as a hobby.
Livestock groups say it doesn’t matter whether someone is making a living off the animals the cougars kill – the ballot initiative language for depredation permits makes no exceptions.
Phillips, who is now an attorney, said the state’s new policy is “easily challengeable in court.”
“I think they’re bowing to political pressure, and it’s too bad,” he said. “But the reality is nobody will bother to apply for permits any more. Shoot, shovel and shut-up, that’s what coming.”
Can someone please explain what this means... Ed F
These are the same idiots who are trying to make it illegal for Californians to buy eggs layed by chickens IN cages!
I really feel for you guys who live there and are subjected to the crap these libtards foist upon you year after year!
- Never mind the mental depravity required to victimize people with such stupid laws. How do they propose to substantiate the aforementioned antecedent action actually happened?
I think the guys laughing at Ca should consider that these policies set a precedent. They think, "This could never happen in my backyard"...well IT WILL if we don't all band together as hunters.
I doubt the hunters in BC thought they would ever ban Grizz hunting....but they did.
Nah, just throw it in the middle of the road and turn it into a roadkill...8^) Then they might start managing them for over population...8^)))
Ironically just watched PBS's "Nature" program on Cats and they were showing California wildlife officers who radio collared and were tracking about half a dozen cats in LA suburbia... They were showing a kill site of a mulie doe and you could see and hear a major highway traffic in the background... I'm talking about less than a hundred yards from the highway... They’ve become humanized...
It's also the location of one of California's post-lion-hunting-ban human kills. There was a woman that was jogging there early AM, I think in the early 90s, and was attacked, killed, and eaten. There was also another non-fatal attack up there a few years removed from her death and an old couple attacked in the LA mountains shortly after her death. I remember these growing up as a kid. The sentiment was always, "well, we're going into their backyard," and "well, we've taken their homes," etc.
Till now, F&G has always hunted down these man-eaters so it hasn't gotten to epidemic proportions and caused a public outrage. As long as it's just the occasional person that gets eaten, people don't care.