The Legislature last week approved and sent to the governor a bill by Senator Jerry Hill that would authorize the California Department of Fish and Wildlife 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.
"With this very important vote, California is one step closer to ending the unnecessary killing of mountain lions,” said Timothy Dunbar, executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation. “We applaud Senator Hill for recognizing the value of mountain lions to California’s environment and for championing nonlethal responses to mountain lion encounters.”
Hill, D-San Mateo, introduced Senate Bill 132 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 (DFW) 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.
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.
SB 132, which cleared the Senate on a 35-2 vote and awaits the governor’s signature, provides the DFW with additional resources to deal with wayward mountain lions. Coauthored by Assemblymen Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, the bill also 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 towards responders. Among the options included in “nonlethal procedures” are capturing, pursuing, anesthetizing, marking, transporting, hazing, relocating, providing veterinary care to and rehabilitating mountain lions, among other actions.
“Wardens still have the ability to kill mountain lions when the public is at risk,” said Hill. “This legislation gives wardens the flexibility and resources to better deal with the increasing number of mountain lion encounters throughout the state.”
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.