Legislation by Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, was signed Friday by the governor to authorize the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to partner with wildlife groups and nonprofits when responding to reports of mountain lions near residences that do not involve an imminent threat to human life.
Hill introduced the legislation after two mountain lion cubs were fatally shot on Nov. 30, 2012, in a Half Moon Bay neighborhood. State game wardens and San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies were unable to shoo the cubs from the neighborhood to nearby Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park, and regulations did not permit the officers to pursue other options.
Department of Fish and Wildlife officials initially said the female siblings weighed 25 to 30 pounds. But necropsies showed they were only about 4 months old, weighed 13 to 14 pounds and were starving and unlikely to survive in the wild without their mother.
SB 132 requires that nonlethal procedures be used when DFW responds to a mountain lion that has not been designated as an imminent threat to public health or safety, meaning the mountain lion has not exhibited aggressive behaviors toward responders.
Under the mountain lion bill, “nonlethal options” that may be considered include capturing, pursuing, anesthetizing, marking, transporting, hazing, relocating, providing veterinary care to and rehabilitating the cats.
Current state regulations do not give DFW much flexibility when mountain lions venture into populated areas, as in the incident in Half Moon Bay and another mountain lion shooting in Redwood City in 2011.
Hill said the legislation will allow the DFW to partner with wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups, veterinarians, zoos, colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations throughout the state that have the capability and experience to assist with mountain lion incidents.
The Peninsula Humane Society, for example, rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife. Last year, the organization saved 1,450 wild animals in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.