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Fish & Game Releases Necropsy Results of Mountain Lions Shot

The two mountain lions that California Department of Fish and Game wardens shot on Dec. 1 in Half Moon Bay were a lot younger than officials had estimated.

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) today released the results of necropsies performed on two mountain lions shot by DFG law enforcement staff on Dec. 1 in Half Moon Bay.

The necropsies showed the two female lions were about four months old and in poor condition. DFG biologists believe it is unlikely they would have been able to survive in the wild. The two lions weighed about 13 and 14 pounds and their stomachs were empty.

“An incident like this one requires time to gather all the facts. With the necropsy reports, I now realize these animals were smaller than assumed. I regret this unfortunate incident in Half Moon Bay for all involved,” said DFG Director Charlton H. Bonham. “The Department intends to learn from this experience. We take the safety of the public and the welfare of California’s wildlife with the utmost seriousness.”

The two lions were first reported to DFG on Nov. 30 by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. On the advice of DFG staff, sheriff’s deputies encouraged the lions to move out of the residential area.

The lions returned to Half Moon Bay the following day. By the time wardens arrived at approximately 2 p.m., the lions were under a backyard deck and the rain was constant. Wardens were only able to see the heads and faces of the lions.

The wardens shot the mounain lion cubs out of fear for public safety, they said, because the cubs did not shy away from humans.

“In a perfect world we would have had further non-lethal options available. Law enforcement authorities from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and DFG attempted to haze the lions over a 36-hour period but were unable to move the lions out of the area. Our trained wardens work in extraordinarily difficult circumstances every day and this day was no exception,” said DFG Assistant Chief Tony Warrington.

Had the lions not been put down, it is most likely that they would have been captured and turned over to a facility for permanent housing as they were not believed to be able to survive on their own in the wild.

“Prior to the incident at Half Moon Bay, I directed the department’s leadership team to evaluate our guidelines on how we respond to interactions with mountain lions and bears and determine how we can do better,” Bonham said. “I look forward to the results of that review, which I expect to receive in January.”

As part of that review, Bonham and senior DFG leadership met recently with Mountain Lion Foundation executive director Tim Dunbar. A separate meeting between DFG leadership and several other interested stakeholders took place more recently. Bonham reaffirmed his commitment in a call to the Foundation today.

In addition to challenging conditions that field staff sometimes faces in the field, the search for ways to improve response to wildlife interactions face additional challenges.

Among those challenges is the scarcity of space in which to rehabilitate wild animals and house them in captivity. Even when suitable captive space is available, difficult decisions must be made regarding when it is appropriate to take a wild animal into permanent captivity.

Recently, the Peninsula-based nonprofit organization Wildlife Emergency Services has called upon authorities to re-evaluate and change policies regarding interactions with mountain lion cubs, and making subduing or shooting them an absolute last resort.

What do you think of this recent incident and the necropsy results? Tell us in the comments below.

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BeeKeeper Joy December 23, 2012 at 08:12 AM
Since their stomachs were empty, it's likely the mother was dead.
Buck Shaw December 23, 2012 at 03:33 PM
As a young boy my neighbor who hunted gave me two California Gray Fox pups. I didn't ask how he got them. Mom and I raised them untill they were rambiling all over the neighborhood (about 8 months). A park ranger friend at Portola Redwoods took them in and did not tell anyone. Gradually they returned less and less. He recalls they stoped by once or twice a year for five or six years. Rayme and Ranard the Fox. I call that success! Just good uncommon sence! Redwood City Tribune article: "Talley Ho, Sort Of"
Buck Shaw December 24, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Beekeeper; Really, do most animals eat three squares a day? I know babbies are fed more often with mom's milk but mother nature has seen to it that mom sumtimes will be gone for days and the little ones survive. Julie; Who was Jane Goodal and Jane Fossey? They based there whole life on raising orphans and letting them go back wild. What do those people do with the Ohrangs in Aisa. California Condors are a success too. I would gladly trade a Death Row inmate for the cubs. Cheaper also.... Say 45 K per year for the lions vs. 85 k for Peterson....
Julie Abraham December 29, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Hi Buck, I appreciate your good heart. Good people like Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey worked with the great apes in sanctuaries, although things didn't end well for Diane or her beloved gorillas even so. Unfortunately, hacking out cats (releasing them) has not worked as well. Maurice Hornocker, who has been working with rehabbing Amur tigers, has to keep them in a huge pen and feed them. George Adamson's decades of efforts withAfrican lions, resulted in semi-wild lions which would return to his camp when injured or hungry. Any animal raised in captivity will have a tendency to go up to humans when they need support, and that trust can lead to disaster. Even hand-raised animals released in remote areas can cross great distances to get back to the place they were raised. On the way they can be killed by people who feel threatened by wild animals approaching them or their pets. I hope your foxes did OK. Foxes can make a good living crickets, young birds and mice, but a cougar takes two years to learn to bring down a deer without getting injured in the process. On the success with Condors, those birds are raised from the egg with stringent efforts to prevent them from imprinting on humans. It's a tough gig to do right by a wild animal in trouble. I think we all admire those who do their best to help, and you point out some great examples.
Buck Shaw December 31, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Well you make a good arguement. Then why do we have the Fish and Wildlife Departmet. Shouldn't we just pay for one shooter and save some tax monies. Close the Marin County mammal center and other shelters. Is your arguement that final. Really. Goodall did work with lions and Chimps sorry but I beg to differ..

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