Letters: Opinion: Finally, help for lions

Julia J. Di Sieno

May 5, 2013 12:26 AM

Last December, two starving mountain lion kittens were killed in Half Moon Bay by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). An outdated public safety policy forced the department to kill any lion that accidentally wandered into a human-populated area — even an orphaned kitten no larger than a house cat.
Thankfully, CDFW has since revised its policy, allowing lost lions that are not posing an immediate threat to human life to be safely returned to the wild, or cubs/kittens to be rehabilitated. However, the agency needs legal authorization to carry out some portions of the new policy, such as working with licensed vets and CDFW-permitted wildlife rescue groups to help tranquilize and rehabilitate lions.
The Mountain Lion Foundation and state Sen. Jerry Hill have written and introduced legislation to give the department the necessary authorization. Senate Bill 132 will require CDFW to use nonlethal measures unless the mountain lion poses an immediate threat to the public, and it will, finally, allow local wildlife professionals to assist the department in these situations.
This legislation hits particularly close to home for our volunteers, staff and veterinarians. In 2009, the Animal Rescue Team nearly faced criminal charges after assisting our local wardens with capturing and treating two sickly four-month-old orphaned lion kittens. Thankfully, the district attorney saw that we were only serving our community, our wildlife and CDFW, and ultimately refused to prosecute the case.
Our dilemma exposed a huge hole in the current law. Passing Senate Bill 132 will finally remove this technicality and allow the 100 state-qualified wildlife facilities and veterinarians to come to the aid of California’s lions. This will also save the department and, ultimately, the taxpayer, money in the long run.
Animal Rescue Team would love to offer our services — at no cost to the department — which include: hazing with less-than-lethal ammunition, tranquilizing, capturing, transporting, treating and releasing mountain lions. Our animal ambulance is on call 24 hours a day. Animal Rescue Team already had cages built to the current standards of holding sick, injured or displaced lion cubs.
This much-needed bill is currently supported by 20 animal organizations, including the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Sierra Club, Mountain Lion Foundation and, of course, the Animal Rescue Team Inc.
As urban areas expand farther into mountain lion habitat, we must adapt by increasing nonlethal policies. California’s only specially protected mammal, the mountain lion, deserves the extended protection that SB 132 grants. And as an organization that frequently partners with California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers to haze, capture and rehabilitate wildlife, it’s long overdue that mountain lions be added to the list of species we are authorized to help.
Please help Senate Bill 132 pass by writing a short letter to your local state senator and Assembly member telling them you are a constituent who supports SB 132 and California’s efforts to coexist with our native wildlife.
This bill is a win-win for people and wildlife, and upon its passage we look forward to being put to good use to help California’s precious mountain lions.

The author is executive director and co-founder of Animal Rescue Team, Inc.

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