State Sen. Jerry Hill intends to put forward legislation ordering state wardens to avoid using lethal force on mountain lions, almost two months after a pair of cubs were shot and killed in Half Moon Bay. Hill’s office announced the new legislation in the press release sent out Thursday afternoon.
The proposed bill would require state Fish and Wildlife officials to first attempt to subdue a cougar by either capturing, tranquilizing or “temporarily injuring” the animal. State wardens would still have the discretion to kill mountain lions if they present an immediate threat to humans. The bill would also direct wardens to partner with wildlife groups and nonprofits when dealing with the animals.
Speaking on Thursday, Hill said he drafted the legislation after speaking to both state wardens and independent wildlife advocates.
"The current guidelines really force (wardens) to kill mountain lions even if humans aren't at risk," Hill said. "We wanted to allow the department and wardens to take alternative actions if appropriate."
Hill will discuss about his forthcoming legislation at an event Friday morning at the CuriOdyssey wildlife museum in San Mateo. He will be joined by Half Moon Bay Mayor Rick Kowalczyk and representatives from the Mountain Lion Foundation and the Felidae Conservation Fund.
The new legislation comes after Fish and Wildlife officials faced intense scrutiny over their response to two mountain lion cubs that wandered into a Half Moon Bay neighborhood on Dec. 1. After an unsuccessful attempt to shoo the animals back into the wilderness, wardens made the decision to use lethal force. Officials initially described the animals as a possible threat to the neighborhood, but the animals were later found to be no more than four months old and about the size of housecats.
Top officials with Fish and Wildlife have since expressed regret over the incident, and they pledged to review their policies for dealing with mountain lions. That review should be finished in the next couple weeks, according to a department spokeswoman.
Independent wildlife organizations point to the Half Moon Bay incident as an example of many of the longstanding problems in how state wardens deal with mountain lions. The California Fish and Game code directs wardens to kill a mountain lion if it presents a public threat, but it doesn't mention first trying to pacify or capture the animal. Prior to the Half Moon Bay incident, representatives with the Mountain Lion Foundation were urging state wildlife officials to add policies for nonlethal measures.