Once again The Times has issued a typically knee-jerk reaction to the state Department of Fish and Game's proposal to allow a conservative, limited mountain lion hunt in its editorial (Feb. 5), "Going After the Big Cats."
When your mind is made up, it's easy to ignore the fact that state policy requires diversified uses of wildlife, including sport hunting where appropriate (Article 2, Section 1801). The same state policy also requires maintenance of a viable lion population and protection of lion habitat, both objectives to which the department is committed.
The Times also seems certain that there is "legitimate dispute about the size and health of the lion population in California." Those who question the conclusions of Fish and Game studies are so opposed to hunting that they will never , in a million years, admit that the mountain lion population is stable, increasing and widely distributed. As long as fanatic animal lovers have breath left in their bodies, the dispute will live on.
Fish and Game did not rush into this decision. It took an additional year to study and research the mountain lion population before making its recommendation. The department used conservative estimates to determine the number of permits to be issued and experts there know from experience that actual hunter success will range from 5% to 30%--a probable take of 10 to 63 lions out of 5,000 statewide.
Do we know enough about California's mountain lions to permit a limited, conservative hunt for sport and for population control?
The answer is yes.