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Valley Perspective

The Death of a Mountain Lion

March 02, 1997

Sad to say, but state Fish and Game officials took the correct course when they shot and killed a female mountain lion found resting on the patio of a Valencia home last week. The cat posed too great a danger for wardens to capture and return to the wild, although that surely would have been a more favorable outcome.

As humans intrude on nature's domain, confrontations between man and beast grow more common. Coyotes, deer, raccoons and even mountain lions and bears wander down from the hills into residential neighborhoods in search of food. Many can be captured and returned to the ever-dwindling patches of wild land where they belong. But the capture of a black bear that wandered into Canyon Country in January points up how difficult it can be to trap large predators. The bear shook off the tranquilizing effects of several darts and was subdued only after deputies fetched more drugs from a nearby hospital. In last week's encounter with the mountain lion, Fish and Game wardens were unable to chase the cat into an open area. Nor did the lion run from dogs, indicating she was not afraid.

Fearing for their safety and the safety of residents, officials killed the cat with three blasts from a shotgun. A veterinarian from the Los Angeles Zoo criticized the killing, saying he was only minutes away and ready to help tranquilize the animal. Such criticism is easy to level after the fact. But few wildlife wardens enjoy dispatching an animal as graceful and mysterious as a mountain lion.

It was a painful, and sadly unavoidable, decision--one that will become only more common as the urban fringe spreads up canyons, over hillsides and into the places that wild, beautiful creatures have called home for thousands of years.

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