HALF MOON BAY — A necropsy report released late Friday showed two mountain cubs shot to death by California Department of Fish and Game wardens Dec. 1 were much younger and smaller than the agency had previously stated, and Director Charlton Bonham acknowledged the agency needs to do better.
The report, conducted by Fish and Game, found the cubs were about 4 months old and weighed 13-14 pounds, the size of a house cat. Their stomachs were empty and they were in poor condition when they were gunned down while huddling under a porch on the outskirts of downtown Half Moon Bay.
In defending itself against criticism after the shooting that it should have tranquilized the animals, the department initially described
This cub was shot shot and killed by California Department of Fish and Game wardens. (Courtesy of Mark Andermahr)
them as about twice as big — 9 months in age and 25-30 pounds. Officials referred to the cubs at the time as “subadults” who had likely been preying on local pets.
“I now realize these animals were smaller than assumed. I regret this unfortunate incident in Half Moon Bay for all involved,” Bonham said in a statement. “The department intends to learn from this experience. We take the safety of the public and the welfare of California’s wildlife with the utmost seriousness.”
Tim Dunbar, executive director of the California-based Mountain Lion Foundation, is one of several experts who had expressed skepticism about Fish and Game’s initial reports on the shooting. The foundation is now working with the agency and Assemblyman Jerry
Hill, D-San Mateo, to formulate legislation that aims to prevent such incidents in the future.
“This just reinforces our opinion that the actions taken in this situation were incorrect,” Dunbar said. “And we’re hoping that this will help bring some fundamental changes to the department in how it responds to public safety incidents involving mountain lions.”
The legislation would likely put in place protocols to require wardens to give greater consideration to tranquilizing or trapping cougars. Hill said Friday that, if talks go well, he will have an announcement in the next few weeks. Under Proposition 117, which banned mountain lion hunting in 1990, such a change to the law would require a four-fifths vote of the state Legislature.
Bonham said Friday that an internal review was under way before the shooting and will likely wrap up in January.
“Prior to the incident at Half Moon Bay, I directed the department’s leadership team to evaluate our guidelines on how we respond to interactions with mountain lions and bears and determine how we can do better,” Bonham said.
The necropsy did not note anything abnormal about the cats, other than that they appeared to be starving, with little to no fat deposits. One of the cubs, which wildlife experts presume were orphaned siblings, had congestion in its lungs.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.
Woman Crusades to Protect Big Cat Cubs
MONTEREY, Calif.- A woman who has dedicated her life to rescuing and rehabilitating animals is making an appeal to the California Department of Fish and Game to change their policies regarding mountain lions following the fatal shooting of two cubs in December.
Rebecca Dmytryk, director of the Monterey-based Wildlife Emergency services, formerly known as WildRescue, said game wardens in Half Moon Bay shot the cubs on December 1st, as the rehabilitation and release of cougars in California is currently prohibited.
In a news release Friday, the California Department of Fish and Game said the two female lions were about four months old and in poor condition and DFG biologists believe it would be unlikely they would have been able to survive in the wild. The two lions weighed about 13 and 14 pounds and their stomachs were empty.
“An incident like this one requires time to gather all the facts. With the necropsy reports, I now realize these animals were smaller than assumed. I regret this unfortunate incident in Half Moon Bay for all involved,” said DFG Director Charlton H. Bonham in the release. “The Department intends to learn from this experience. We take the safety of the public and the welfare of California’s wildlife with the utmost seriousness.”
The two lions were first reported to DFG on Nov. 30 by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
The lions returned to Half Moon Bay the following day, Dec. 1. By the time wardens arrived at approximately 2 p.m., the lions were under a backyard deck and the rain was constant. Wardens were only able to see the heads and faces of the lions.
“In a perfect world we would have had further non-lethal options available. Law enforcement authorities from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and DFG attempted to haze the lions over a 36-hour period but were unable to move the lions out of the area. Our trained wardens work in extraordinarily difficult circumstances every day and this day was no exception,” said DFG Assistant Chief Tony Warrington, also in a news release Friday.
Dmytryk said it is possible for the big cats to be successfully treated and returned to the wild where they belong.
Her petition has received nearly 800 signatures and support from more than 35 licensed wildlife rehabilitators from around the state.
Dmytryk has been involved in the field of wildlife rehabilitation for over 30 years and her focus is on first response.
Dmytryk said in a news release, regarding her appeal, she and her husband were ready and available to respond that day to help wardens with the cubs, had they been called.
“I wish they had reached out to the wildlife rehabilitation community for other solutions rather than killing the cubs. I believe the cubs could have been safely captured,” said Dmytryk.
She and colleagues are forming a task force to create minimum standards that will detail the requirements for a California Cougar Compound. Next, says Dmytryk, they will need to find a remote, isolated piece of undeveloped land on which to build a large enclosure, and funds to construct it.