|Santa Monica lion courtesy Google images|
Many of us expressed concern following the recent gunning down of a baby mountain lion whose quest for something to eat led him into downtown Santa Monica. In response, the Police Chief of Santa Monica, Jacqueline Seabrooks, convened a focus group comprised of representatives from the Santa Monica Police Department, Department of Fish and Game, Animal Welfare Representatives, (including me, your spcaLA), National Park Service, veterinarians and others to review, discuss and suggest ways to avoid something like this from recurring in the future.
To her credit, Chief Seabrooks committed to providing specific training to her officers, purchasing additional resources, and creating a "phone tree" of experts in the community who can respond, assist and act should there be future wildlife encounters in the city.
However, this is not enough. Due to the protected status of the mountain lion in California, only the Department of Fish and Game or its delegate can tranquilize or take a mountain lion. Therein lies the problem. It was clear from the discussion that there are tranquilizers and delivery systems available to quickly and safely drug and control a mountain lion so that lethal force would remain a last resort. In other words, a drug that worked quickly and a "gun" that delivered the drug in a less painful and provocative method may have saved this lion's life.
The Department of Fish and Game uses Telazol and a dart gun, neither of which the experts in the room considered to be the best tools for the job. (To that end, the necropsy report was silent on how much of the Telazol was actually found in the lion.) It is therefore unknown whether the lion reacted to the pain of being stabbed by a dart, the number of people surrounding him, the Telazol itself which may have agitated before sedating, or because no drug was in his system at all and he was simply acting like a lion.
Your spcaLA specifically asked the Department of Fish and Game representatives to review the possibility of converting their drug and delivery protocols to something more effective. It seems to me that while anything can happen, the heart of the problem was the failure to sedate the lion and to have a proper plan in place for human personnel while waiting for a drug to take effect. It is this failure that could potentially also endanger the public. All I ask is that best practices be employed so that we maximize our chances of protecting both our people and our wildlife. If you agree, please email Charlton H. Bonham, the Director of Fish and Game at Director@dfg.ca.gov and echo my request for a thorough review of their capture protocols.
Finally, there is a proposal to create a wildlife corridor at Liberty Canyon under the 101 Freeway. This would connect two areas of natural habitat on either side of the freeway thus increasing the lions' roaming area while keeping them and motorists safe from a chance encounter. Caltrans applied to the federal government for a grant to do this last year which was denied but I am told that they will apply again. At that time I will ask for your assistance in persuading the government to award the grant. Clearly, preventing the lions from coming into the city in the first place will help prevent future killings.
|courtesy Google images|
As we continually develop cities and encroach into areas inhabited by wildlife, it is incumbent upon us to commit to doing our best in the face of a chance encounter. With your help - let's make it so.