Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mountain lion, cub killed in N. California

Neighborhood divided regarding fairness of state trapper’s decision

By Laura Brown, laurab@theunion.com
12:01 a.m. PT Mar 30, 2007

The killing of a pet goat by a mountain lion has left a neighborhood divided as to whether it was fair for a state trapper to kill the lion and a cub, leaving a second cub an orphan.

The incident, one mile outside Nevada City, has sparked outrage among neighboring residents who say they have come to co-exist with wildlife for a number of years.

"It makes me and all the rest of the neighbors mad," said Jack Chandler, 87, a retired cop who has lived on 40 acres in the region since 1962.

He has seen mountain lions walking in his driveway and believes one ate his pet dog. Still, he believes wild animals should be left alone.

"I'm in love with wild animals. I hate it like hell when they are killed," Chandler said.

Jen Lee was the owner of Madonna, the pet goat that was killed a few weeks ago. She said she had no choice but to call the trapper after the lions killed her cat and caused her dog to give chase onto the highway where it was hit by a car. She said she feared the lions would hurt a child next.

"The animal had to be killed," Lee said. "We live in a populated area. The mountain lion could have killed children."

She has lived on the property, adjacent to Bureau of Land Management land, for 10 years and began having trouble with the large cat six months ago.

Lee called a trapper after her goat was found half-eaten 15 yards from its pen. It was the second call in two days for the trapper, who had just killed a longtime menace in the Chicago Park area, county Agriculture Commissioner Jeffrey Pylman said.

The goat was set out for bait, and the trapper waited for the lion's return that night. A 100-pound mother lion and two cubs came back to feed.

The trapper shot and killed the lioness and one of the cubs with a shotgun. The other one disappeared into the neighboring forest and hasn't been seen since.

"I think the cub is too young to survive on its own," said Pylman of the young lion.

Tyler Lee said the animal weighed about 60 pounds and stood almost as high as his knee. The lion still had spots but was believed to be weaned, he said.

Pylman said he spoke with the trapper, who said he was unaware of the other cub and would have terminated it if he had known.

"Fish and Game doesn't want to have an orphaned cub. That would be inhumane," Pylman said.

Mountain lions have been a protected species in California since 1990 and state Fish and Game does not issue depredation permits unless a lion has killed pets or livestock.

Last year, seven depredation permits were issued from Fish and Game to Nevada County and two mountain lions were killed. Since 2000, 22 animals have been killed in the county.

Ranchers living in Nevada County say that mountain lions have become a serious problem because they kill livestock, Pylman said.

In January, county supervisors approved a contract with a full-time trapper from U.S. Wildlife Service and the county's Agriculture Commission.

Pylman said the animals have become a problem in Nevada County because the state no longer allows sport hunting of the animals, and population increases are causing territorial animals to move to lower elevations where people live.

In California, 50 percent of the state is considered prime mountain lion habitat, with an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 of the animals living throughout the state, said Troy Swauger, information officer for the California Department of Fish and Game.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab @theunion.com or call 477-4231.

http://www.theunion.com/article/20070330/NEWS/103300152

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