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'Going After the Big Cats'

February 15, 1987

Hearings are being held by the Fish and Game Commission to determine the fate of the mountain lion in California. Only public outcry stopped trophy hunting of the lions last year; however, two unfortunate and unusual attacks--the first since 1909--may give the commission and the pro-hunting lobby the support needed to once again hunt these animals down with a pack of dogs and then shoot them point blank from a tree. They call this "management" of the lion population.

The Fish and Game Commission is ignoring a basic problem in their zeal to appease hunters of the state. If humans are coming into more contact with mountain lions and other animals, it's due in great part to rapidly diminishing habitat.

What's needed is more protection of these lands through better management practices. This may even include placing some restrictions on people wishing to use wildlife areas, but it will result in protection for man and animal alike. Trophy hunting poorly bandages the situation and avoids dealing directly with the problem of diminishing habitat. It also robs the people of California of a precious part of our heritage and environment.

Unless the public again comes to their defense, there's a good chance the mountain lion will go the way of our unfortunate state symbol, the grizzly bear: extinct in our own state. Perhaps we should replace the grizzly bear with the mountain lion as state animal. It is a proud and majestic animal, which could well become a symbol of California and it makes sense that our symbol should be alive and well and thriving in its natural environment. Maybe then hunters would be less inclined to destroy the lions and the government more inclined to protect them. Perhaps not . . . look at the grizzly bear.

CATHERINE DOYLE

Los Angeles

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