Charlton Bonham, Director, Department of Fish and Game: Consider change to mountain lion policies.


Charlton Bonham, Director, Department of Fish and Game: Consider change to mountain lion policies.

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At dusk on Friday, November 30th, 2012, two sibling mountain lion cubs, between 5 and 9 months of age, were observed on the 800 block of Correas Street in Half Moon Bay, hiding just a stone's throw away from expansive open space and wild land.

According to reports, wardens attempted to shoo the animals away, but, the following day, the animals was spotted again, still together, but this time in someone's backyard. It is unclear what transpired next, but both cubs were shot and killed by wardens, with public safety being cited as the main reason.

Public safety must come first, and in cases involving potentially dangerous animals lethal control is understandable. However, circumstances surrounding this particular incident bring into question whether the cubs posed an imminent threat to public safety and if killing the orphans was the most appropriate answer.

According to wildlife experts, the cubs were still very dependent on their mother - typically, mountain lion cubs stay with their mother for nearly two years. Their thin body condition could indicate they’d lost her - perhaps she was killed. Experts also explain the cubs’ described behavior - allowing humans to approach, as something that is not so unusual for motherless, starving, or otherwise desperate young, such as these.

Because of their age, California wildlife rehabilitators believe the two cubs were excellent candidates for rehabilitation and release. They were not kittens, so there would have been no danger of imprinting. During rehabilitation, they would have received aversion training, making them less likely to ever approach humans.

Unfortunately, in California, the rehabilitation of mountain lions is prohibited. This incident highlights the need for California to have at least one facility for the rehabilitation of mountain lions under certain, very specific situations - such as this.

This is an appeal to the California Department of Fish and Game to review current policies regarding mountain lions and consider broadening them to encourage communication and collaboration between wardens and outside wildlife specialists before lethal control is used, if and whenever possible, and, additionally, to consider the possibility of licensing at least one mountain lion rehabilitation facility in California.

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