But environmentalists, state and federal officials across Southern California were up in arms Tuesday about the rancher’s aim to hunt down the male mountain lion known as P-45.
“I understand if you lost the animals you’re raising and are upset,” said Michael Bell, founder of Citizens for a Humane Los Angeles, based in Encino. “But this is a mountain lion, P-45. Famous.
“I believe he should be left alone to do what mountain lions do. If people have livestock, they should go to great extremes to protect their own without killing a natural predator.”
A state game warden gave the unidentified rancher permission Monday to kill the cougar in the mountains above Malibu after it slaughtered a dozen farm animals over the weekend.
The mountain lion identified as P-45 allegedly tore apart 10 alpaca at one ranch near Mulholland Highway at Decker Canyon Road on Saturday, and another alpaca and a goat Sunday at a second ranch.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued the so-called depredation order, which under state law grants a person the right to shoot a mountain lion if it has been killing livestock or pets. A spokesman for the agency did not respond to a request for comment.
The state order allowing the take-down of the 4-year-old cat coincides with a federal study of between 10 and 15 mountain lions thought to live in the Santa Monica Mountains between the 101 Freeway and the ocean. P-45 is equipped with a radio transmitter tracked by National Park Service biologists.
Federal park rangers have been trying to improve the bloodlines of the mountain lions trapped by urban freeways between Los Angeles and Camarillo. Inbreeding between the cats, they say, could cause them to go extinct in 50 years.
Two weeks ago, the state Wildlife Commission approved a $7.1 million land buy along the 101 Freeway west of Calabasas to provide habitat for the endangered subspecies. Cougar advocates hope to raise $56 million for a wildlife crossing bridge over the 10-lane freeway.
Federal rangers, in conjunction with state game wardens and environmental groups, will host a “Living in Mountain Lion Country” workshop today about local cougars and how to safeguard pets and livestock. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the NPS Paramount Ranch, 2903 Cornell Road., Agoura Hills.
Malibu Hills residents are expected to press game wardens to trap and relocate killer cats. Cougar advocates are expected to press for greater pet and livestock protection.
“The lion is obviously killing for sport — not food,” Mary-Dee Rickards, who lives on a nearby ranch, had said in a statement to KBUU radio.
The National Park Service issued a statement Tuesday saying the only long-term solution to keeping the big cats around Los Angeles is to erect mountain lion-proof enclosures for pets and livestock.
“Eliminating P-45 does not solve the problem, especially given there are at least four mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains that have killed livestock over the past year,” said Kate Kuykendall, acting deputy superintendent for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, in a statement. “Nor is P-45’s behavior abnormal or aberrant in any way.
“If animals are stuck in an unsecured pen, a mountain lion’s natural response can be to prey upon all available animals.”
State Sen.-elect Henry Stern, who will represent the region after being sworn in Dec. 5, said he will call upon state game wardens to find a solution other than death to the cat.
“I think there’s a way to deal with it,” said Stern, the incoming senator for District 27, based in Calabasas. “Not even the ranching community wants to pull out a shotgun and protect the herd.”
The National Wildlife Federation, whose Save L.A. Cougars campaign is working with state and federal agencies to save the Santa Monica Mountains cats, has offered to pay for livestock protection for the rancher. The safeguard measures include secured pens, guard dogs and outdoors lights.
“We want a landscape that’s safe for wildlife, livestock, pets and people,” said federation California Director Beth Pratt-Bergstrom. “It’s possible to do so. Mountain lions are just being mountain lions.
“This is a predictable conflict, and one that we can solve by being good neighbors and by taking responsibility for securing our livestock or domestic animals,” she said.