Animal Rights

California Convulses Over Dead Mountain Lion In Non-Bordering State


Mountain lions: It's us or them.

The Orange County Register's Brian Joseph takes a Golden State safari

Once again, California faces a budget crisis. Revenues are projected to come in lower than anticipated. The governor and special interest groups are sparring over competing tax measures. Angry college students are occupying the Capitol.

And yet the most talked about issue in Sacramento these days is a Fish and Game Commissioner who legally killed a mountain lion in Idaho.

Ever since news of Dan Richards' hunting trip came to light in late February, the Watchdog has been patiently waiting for the story to burn itself out.  But after three weeks of intense scrutiny, the story doesn't seem to be going anywhere. News organizations, state policy makers and callers to legislative offices continue debating this only-in-California controversy.

This parody of the land of the nuts and the fruits is not intentional. Although Californians have turned out by scores to support Richards, his fellow commissioners quietly voted to demote him the other day. 

Dan Richards supporters.

Felicity Barringer of New York's Times newsparchment takes readers on a misty watercolored journey through the history of her own hunter-gatherer ancestors before settling in to describe California's Idaho mountain lion controversy in this way: "Local newspaper opinion polling on Mr. Richards's actions continues."

Barringer doesn't mention that this polling not only continues but shows public support for Richards at 67 percent

California doesn't just oppose the death penalty for mountain lions in other states. It insists on coddling mountain lions as they begin their careers of conscienceless predation upon other animals (including humans). Local media are celebrating the nursing back to health of a couple of mountain lion cubs found recently in downtown Burbank, with a Santa Barbara TV station noting, "Now a documentary will feature Olive and Magnolia and the issue of urban expansion into wildlife habitats." 

Mountain lion controversies are ending gainful public careers in other states as well. AP reports that South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks Department has fired a big-game biologist after he waited almost a day to report having made the final legal mountain lion kill of the hunting season. Biologist Lowell Schmitz appears not to have violated regulations, which allow a one-day grace period for reporting kills to the government. But his delay tragically cost three more Feline-Americans their lives. The Rapid City Journal has details

Schmitz said last week that he was in a hurry after he shot the lion to get back to town and pick up his children from school. Then, Schmitz said, he got involved in helping with their homework and ended up with a migraine headache, so he waited to check in the lion until the next day.

Hunters have 24 hours to check in lions they shoot. Schmitz didn't violate regulations, but he was criticized for not in bringing the cat in sooner or at least calling GF&P in Rapid City where he worked as a biologist.

On the evening of Feb. 29, the lion kill on the GF&P website – one of the options hunters have in checking the status of the season – was at 69, one short of the season-ending quota of 70.

But the 70th lion was actually already in Schmitz's possession but unreported.

So the season remained open on March 1, and hunters killed three more lions that day.

I've never killed a mountain lion, but I'd like to hope such an experiences would be exhilirating enough that you wouldn't get a migraine after the hunt. Getting a migraine just doesn't seem very hunter-like to me.

Meanwhile, the mountain lions get payback: One cat ripped a six-year-old at Big Bend National Park in Texas last month. California mountain lions have been repaying humans for their concern with more than a century's worth of killings and maulings. And another cat recently clawed a child and a family dog in the Gem State itself.