Commend California for Nonlethal Treatment of Mountain Lions

Target: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Goal: Applaud new policies implemented by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that allow nonlethal resolutions to mountain lion appearances.

For the first time, California state wildlife officials now have ways to deal with mountain lions without necessarily killing them, thanks to recent policy revisions in dealing with cougars that show up in urban areas. In the past, officials had two options: monitor the mountain lion until it had left the area on its own, or kill it under special permit. Now, new policy declares that if a mountain lion has not already threatened or attacked a person or domestic animal, it can be considered a “potential human conflict,” and dealt with via a range of nonlethal methods.  “Potential human conflicts” are defined as those “that could reasonably be perceived as having potential to cause severe injury or death to humans.”

Tim Dunbar, executive director of the Sacramento-based nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation, said, “With these new guidelines, [the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has] added a whole new category where it gives them the option to slow down and take some other course. This is a good step forward. We believe its something that’s been needed for some time.”

New options include hazing the cougar with nonlethal ammunition such as rubber bullets or beanbag rounds, or using Tasers, tranquilizer guns, pepper spray, or trained dogs to drive the mountain lion back into the wild. In some cases, they may also capture, transport, and rehabilitate mountain lions. The new policy also limits the number of mountain lions that can be killed to one per special permit.

The new regulations were inspired in large part due to an incident last year where two mountain lion kittens that had been hiding under a deck in a residential area of Half Moon Bay were killed by officials. Necropsies later determined that the kittens had been under 14 pounds each, four months old, and had no food in their stomachs.

Commend the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for including nonlethal measures when dealing with mountain lions.


Dear California Department of Fish and Wildlife,

California is the only state in the nation that classifies mountain lions as a “specially protected species,” which makes it illegal to hunt, harm, capture, or harass the big cats. While the law allows for them to be killed by special permit when they pose a threat to public safety, livestock, or other endangered species such as bighorn sheep, lethal action is not always called for. But until recently, when action was needed, no other alternative was available, and mountain lions have suffered needless deaths.

As humans and wildlife continue to come in contact, it is important to demonstrate prudence and respect for life in these situations. Thank you for implementing measures to allow for nonlethal methods of dealing with our beautiful big cats, and for reining in their unnecessary killings.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Larry Moats via Wikimedia Commons

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One Comment

  1. Myrna Burdick says:

    Glad to see Fish and Game finally realizes that wild
    animals need care so they can remain in the heritage of the state.

    As a former wild life rehabber., the F&G people I met
    were very condesending of rehabber.s -“a bunch of old
    ladies with nothing to do” and they saw no benefit to
    the long hours we all spent feeding, nursing back to health and releasing injured or orphaned animals and
    birds. One big step forward for the Dept.

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