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Santa Monica Mountain Pumas No Longer Receive Automatic Death Sentences
By Niki Cervantes
January 5, 2018 -- Cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains and elsewhere in Southern California’s wilderness no longer face automatic death sentences if they prey upon domestic animals, state officials announced Tuesday.
From now on, automatic permits to kill the big cats will no longer be issued in areas where mountain lions are genetically endangered, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
Its new policy requires two official attempts to chase away mountain lions using non-lethal means before signing off on potentially fatal action.
“The new policy, based on the most recent biological and scientific information, is a significant step forward as we continue to learn how to peacefully coexist with our mountain lions in an ever-changing environment,” said Assembly Member Richard Bloom, whose district includes Santa Monica.
“I applaud the department and other participating partners for their hard work over the last year in developing these best practices that will also serve as a foundation for minimizing future human-wildlife conflicts,” he said.
The policy shift applies only to the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountain ranges, where the cougars are hemmed in by Southern California’s growing human population and are having difficulty surviving and re-populating.
The heart of the change, though, started with P-45 -- a five-year-old radio-tagged male puma suspected of killing scores of farm animals (including alpacas) in the Santa Monica Mountains in November of 2016 ("Santa Monica Lawmaker to Introduce Legislation After Mountain Lion Attacks," December 1, 2016).
His fate sparked outcry after the Malibu rancher who’d lost livestock in the killing spree was issued a state “depredation” permit to kill him.
Animal rights groups, environmentalists and many elected officials, including Bloom and state Senator Ben Allen, who also represents Santa Monica, called for P-45 to be spared and the policy involved to be revisited.
Bloom introduced AB 8, which called for increased flexibility on dealing with protected wildlife like pumas that might also pose a danger to livestock and property.
California’s Wildlife Protection Act, approved by voters in 1990, prohibits the hunting of mountain lions. But it also authorizes owners of livestock attacked by a mountain lion to seek lethal depredation permits.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been legally required to grant these permits, and critics say thousands of mountain lions have been killed as a result.
According to recent media reports, California issues more than 200 depredation permits a year, although typically fewer than half result in kills.
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