State Senate Bill 132, a mountain lion public safety bill introduced by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo/Santa Clara), takes effect New Year’s Day 2014. The legislation authorizes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to use only nonlethal procedures when responding to reports of mountain lions near residences when the wild cats do not involve an imminent threat to human life. It also authorizes the department to partner with wildlife groups and nonprofits to resolve these situations.
Senator Hill introduced SB 132 after two mountain lion cubs were fatally shot on December 1, 2012, in Half Moon Bay. State game wardens and San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies were unable to shoo the cubs from the neighborhood to nearby Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park, and regulations did not permit officers to pursue other options.
Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) officials initially said the female siblings weighed 25 to 30 pounds. But necropsies showed they were only about 4 months old, weighed 13 to 14 pounds, and were starving and unlikely to survive in the wild without their mother.
The incident in Half Moon Bay and another mountain lion shooting in Redwood City in 2011 were unfortunate examples of the lack of flexibility in regulations pertaining to DFW’s response when mountain lions venture into populated areas
SB 132, signed by Governor Brown on September 6, provides DFW with additional resources to deal with wayward mountain lions. Coauthored by Assemblymen Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) and Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), the bill also requires that nonlethal procedures be used when DFW responds to a mountain lion that has not been designated as an imminent threat to public health or safety.
Among the options included in “nonlethal procedures” are capturing, pursuing, anesthetizing, marking, transporting, hazing, releasing, providing veterinary care to, and rehabilitating mountain lions.
“SB 132 strikes the right balance when protecting humans and wildlife,” Hill says. “Wardens still have the ability to kill mountain lions when the public is at risk. But this legislation gives wardens the flexibility and resources to better deal with the increasing number of mountain lion encounters throughout the state.”
Hill’s legislation allows DFW to partner with wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups, veterinarians, zoos, colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations throughout the state that have the capability and experience to assist with mountain lion incidents.
Peninsula Humane Society, for example, rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife. Last year, the organization saved 1,450 wild animals in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties.