By Jake Henshaw
SACRAMENTO — It's time to give the public more warning about mountain lions roaming public land, the Assembly decided Thursday.
Lawmakers, on a vote of 61-7, told the state parks and wild game agencies to ask for enough money to post warnings signs when buying new property if it's mountain lion habitat.
"This is simply a small step in advancing a human safety measure and providing a public education [about] these animals," Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, the bill's author, told the Assembly.
His measure, Assembly Bill 1143, would require the Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Parks and Recreation to determine whether any property they want to buy is mountain lion habitat.
If it is, the agencies must include enough money for warning signs in their financing proposals.
Hunting mountain lions was prohibited by a 1990 voter-approved ballot initiative.
The number of lions has grown from about 2,000 in the 1970s up to a possible 6,000 today, according to the Department of Fish and Game. Maze said there have been 11 attacks on humans causing injury or death since 1990, and DFG said it receives hundreds of reports annually of the big cats killing pets and livestock.
The bill prompted some bipartisan crossfire.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said the bill would require these agencies to "jump through new bureaucratic hoops and incur costs every time they try to acquire wildlife corridor land, open spaces and critical park land."
"I don't think there is a conflict here that is solved by a sign," added Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo. He said he's concerned about "the continual cluttering of the public space with dire warnings that aren't particularly useful or helpful."
But Assemblyman Ted Liu, D-Torrance, responded that for victims of mountain lion attacks, "this was not a frivolous matter."
"All we're saying is if the determination is made [about mountain lion habitat], I think we would want our families protected that enter into this open space," said Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.
AB 11423 next goes to the Senate.