Protecting Mountain Lions.

April 2, 2014

The new year brought us a new law protecting Mountain Lions in our state. SB 132 sponsored our own State Senator Jerry Hill. In 1990, voters enacted the California Wildlife Protection Act. The act established that the mountain lion is a specially protected mammal under the laws of this state, and makes it unlawful to take, injure, possess, transport, import, or sell any mountain lion or any part or product thereof. However, it authorized the Department of Fish and Wildlife, or other appropriate agencies to remove or take any mountain lion that is perceived to be an imminent threat to public health or safety or that is perceived by the department to be an imminent threat to the survival of certain sheep species. Under the act, mountain lions that are authorized to be taken were required to be taken by the most effective means available. This bill requires nonlethal procedures be used when removing or taking any mountain lion that has not been designated as an imminent threat to public health or safety.

As all COWs know, Mountain Lions are definitely part of our landscape. These beautiful wild animals often wander into inhabited areas. In the past, this has often meant that they would be killed by game wardens.

The bill was a reaction to the fact that two 13-pound Mountain Lion cubs were shot and killed by game wardens in Half Moon Bay in December 2012. The killings were unnecessary as the cubs didn’t pose a danger to anyone. California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials will now be working with rescue groups to capture Mountain Lions that wander into populated areas, and tranquilize and relocate them to areas safer for them (and for us!).

Senator Hill has noted the success of his new law, with cats in San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles already being spared. A 15-pound cub in Santa Barbara’s life was saved in early January due to the new law. We want to thank Senator Hill for his sensible legislation protecting these big cats.

Of course, Mountain Lions can be dangerous if approached too closely, and should be given their space. The recent sighting in Portola Valley remind us of this, and remind us to be smart around the big cats. With the drought this year, these cats are likely to be roaming into inhabited areas more frequently than ever this year. A good list for what to do should you encounter a Mountain Lion is here, provided by the Mountain Lion Foundation, an advocacy group.

You can see some of the amazing wildlife in our region in a series of amazing photos run recently on the SF Chronicle’s website – trail cams caught candid shots of Mountain Lions, bears, and lots of other critters.

For more facts about Mountain Lions in California, check out this web page by the California Department of Fish and Game here.

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