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Young mountain lion shot in Pleasanton

By Gary Bogue
Tuesday, June 13th, 2006 at 3:16 pm in Fish and Game, Mountain lion, Wildlife.

A juvenile mountain lion about a year old was shot and killed in Pleasanton, by a California Department of Fish and Game warden at 11:15 a.m. this morning.

I just got off the phone with Troy Swauger, a DFG information officer and he said they got a call from animal control about 9:20 a.m. reporting that the 50-60 pound mountain lion was acting unusual. A DFG warden responded to the scene. When the warden came into the area, she noticed a park with playing children about 200 yards away.

The warden was told the big cat had been pacing back and forth in the parking lot next to a Pleasanton condominium complex. The cat had probably come out of an open space area next to the complex by traveling along a nearby creekbed. Local police officers on the site told our Valley Times staff writer Sophia Kazmi that the lion had "been in at least a couple of back yards in the Birch Creek Townhouses complex."

Troy told me the cat was standing next to a chainlink fence that it could have jumped over and returned to the open space area but it refused to go. He said the mountain lion was moving from the parking lot back toward the townhouses when the warden took one shot and killed it. It had been determined to be a public safety issue with a potential risk to humans.

This is the time of year when mama mountain lions boot yearling cats out on their own after spending a year being trained in the art of hunting. Troy said the 50-60 pound cat was a little smaller than normal for its age, but it appeared healthy. They’ll be doing a standard necropsy on the animal to find out the sex and to see if it had any diseases.

Today’s mountain lion encounter was very similar to other encounters with these big cats in the past (Palo Alto, Livermore in 2004). It’s almost always a yearling cub, freshly on its own and trying to set up its own territory. Unfortunately, mountain lion territories seem to be getting more and more in demand as the lion population grows and habitat space is gobbled up by us greedy humans. Older, bigger lions keep chasing the youngsters off until some of them occasionally wander into town and unfortunately get into trouble.

My friend Jim Swanson, a DFG wildlife biologist who retired a couple of years ago, once told me, "I believe the reason we are having so many lion sightings now is that the lion population is growing and these cats are getting kicked out of the better habitats and are searching for a place to make a living and unfortunately they are ending up adjacent to and in the urban areas where trouble brews for them."

As Jim told me in 2004 when I wrote a lot of columns on dealing with mountain lions, "saving the animal is always the first choice." Capture is the next consideration, and the only safe way to do it is to tranquilize the animal. Back in the 1970s, I took the DFG tranquilizer course, where wardens are trained to tranquilize problem animals. I quickly discovered there are many uncertainties and variables with tranquilizing an animal, especially if you’re in the middle of town. Only on TV shows do the animals go immediately to sleep. In reality, you could end up with a terrified, half-drugged mountain lion running through backyards and maybe encountering and injuring a human, or worse.

All things considered, as much as I love those beautiful animals, I’d probably have made the same decision as the warden, especially after seeing those kids playing in a nearby park.

On another note, as I wrote in a column on May 19, 2004, it would be a good thing if DFG could offer more guidance to help local law enforcement agencies handle these lion problems. Special seminars and special "Mountain Lion Kits" could be created and provided. The object of the program would be simple. Come up with standardized ways to deal with the big cats. And put together a "DFG Lion Committee" of lion experts from California and other states to meet regularly and analyze past events and brainstorm and come up with better and less lethal and more effective ways of dealing with wildlife encounters.

It would make things a lot easier for police and wardens and citizens the next time a mountain lion or a bear decides to go for a walk downtown.

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6 Responses to “Young mountain lion shot in Pleasanton”

  1. GG Says:

    This is such a shame, and I understand why the warden felt it had to be done, but it bothers me when these shootings are justified by, for example, “a park with playing children.”

    Children are too big and noisy to be targets of attack, especially for a 60 lb. “teenage” animal. The ones that truly need to be protected are our “fur” children — a cat or dog in a fenced backyard, with no means of escape, would make a very easy meal for a hungry lion.

    Our pets are certainly worthy of protection, so in the end the decision was the right one, but I think it just stokes the public’s unreasonable fears to keep implying that a mountain lion might cause a fatal injury to a human child. It’s just not going to happen.

  2. Birderman Says:

    This bog story is different than being reported else where. Other news sites are reporting that Pleasanton Police shot the cat. Also being reported is that Pleasanton ploice are not taking calls regarding the shoting.
    I personally admire the free rooming cats.
    There will more big cats following the stream beds into urban areas.
    Nature you know flows.
    There has to be a better way than simply killing the cat. Unfortanately now days the police simply want to kill.They use their guns in a show of control towards anything they don’t understand or that doesn’t look like them.
    They would never think of moving the chrilden from the park. They would never think of shoting a tranqulizer into the cat.
    Their reason is a canned pitched statement that each city police department uses.

  3. Ric Curtice Says:

    Changing Perceptions and Finding Humane Solutions
    Perhaps the greatest challenge that we face in fighting cruelty to wild animals is changing the way people perceive wildlife. Each year, millions of wild animals are killed because they are considered pests. Beavers, bats, geese, deer, pigeons, mice, snakes, and squirrels are some of the animals who often suffer horrific deaths because some people consider them a nuisance, but the list also includes wild horses, rabbits, prairie dogs, owls, wolves, bears, eagles, and mountain lions.
    As alarming proportions of their homelands are lost to development, wild animals are forced to live in closer proximity to humans. With few places to go, they enter our homes, parks, golf courses, and urban areas desperately searching for food and shelter. Tragically, what they soon encounter are callous humans intent on killing them with poisons, traps, and countless other cruel methods.

    Despite promises of harmless removal and relocation, what pest control companies and commercial trappers frequently do is just the opposite as PETA’s cruelty caseworkers have seen time and again. Coots, ducks, and geese are secretly shot, gassed, and even bludgeoned to death with baseball bats; beavers are caught and drowned in body-gripping traps or are sealed up alive in their own homes; and animals of all kinds are simply left to die from injuries or starvation. Even well-intentioned local animal control agents are often inadequately trained and unprepared to deal with Bears and Mountain Lion emergencies humanely.

    Ending such cruelty is a complex and long-term challenge. But that has not kept PETA’s Domestic Animal and Wildlife Rescue & Information Department (DAWR&I) from working day and night to change the way wild animals are treated. Every day, DAWR&I’s wildlife experts, cruelty investigators, and rescue staff work closely with homeowners, business managers, and municipal officials to develop effective programs that resolve conflicts between humans and wildlife without the use of cruel methods.

    An important focus of their work is to combat the fears with the facts. Some in the animal control industry rely on public ignorance to drive their business and to get away with inhumane methods, exploiting myths that nuisance animals are dangerous, dirty, and carriers of disease. So PETA has created this free and informative Web site debunking the myths and offering humane alternatives to cruel wildlife control methods. Through PETAs hard work and persistence, more people are turning first to humane alternatives to shooting deaths for control, which means that thousands of animals have been and will be saved from this often overlooked and unreported cruelty.

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  4. Pat in Antioch Says:

    I can see where a wildcat in a populated area could be dangerous, but I can also see where (in a lot of cases) these populated areas used to belong to the wild, or these cats have been driven from their homes because of development. I have a hard time with the whole thing; the vision (a “few wildcats ago”) of the scared cat peering out from behind the bush he was hiding in as the officer prepared to shoot him, still leaves me feeling sad and that we’ve somehow let these creatures down. Is there a better way? Probably, but as long as we continue as we are (GROWTH, GROWTH, GROWTH) I have no idea what it is.

  5. Verna Knox Says:

    Since when are animals more important than our children?
    Yes, as our population grows there is less room for wildlife, but on the other hand, we have so protected the wildlife, that nature itself no longer controls the population of these lovely creatures.

    I am an animal lover, but I’m a mom and grandma first.

  6. Barbara Says:

    San Luis Obispo police officers & sherrifs dept shot, 5 times, and killed a 2 yr old female mountain lion found downtown. She was startled out of hiding by an early morning street sweeper. The lion was scared, ran at a glass window. Once dazed the officer decided to kill it. Yes the officers are trigger happy. They couldn’t wait 10 minutes for the fish & game warden. Nor are the police ever equipped or trained to deal with mountain lions. We need to fit in with nature. Not make nature fit in with us. Can’t fight nature!

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