New mountain lion bill to protect wandering pumas

A year ago, state wardens were to an area just outside of Half Moon Bay on reports of mountina lion kittens being spotted. Eventually, two kittens were shot and killed under a deck, leading to a new state law to help protect the big cats.

Wildlife advocates, a state senator and the mayor of Half Moon Bay will gather today to celebrate a new law that protects mountain lions and cubs that wander into human territory but pose no imminent threat to human life. Senate Bill 132, authored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, requires state wildlife wardens to use non-lethal measures, such as capture, anesthetizing or removal, when a mountain lion does not endanger public health or safety. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

As before, animals that do jeopardize human life can be shot by state Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens or local officers authorized by the department.

The new law also allows wardens to call on veterinarians, scientists, other government agencies, zoos and nonprofit groups to aid in carrying out an alternative to killing a wandering mountain lion.

“It's a humane solution to a potential community problem,” Hill said.

He noted that wardens “do a tough job” and said the two agents called to Half Moon Bay last year had little choice of action under the law and related department guidelines then in effect.

Mountain Lion Foundation executive director Tim Dunbar said the new law is aimed at helping the non-aggressive animal that “wanders into human territory, is not really threatening humans and doesn't want to be there.

“They're just scared and trying to get back to territory they're familiar with,” he said.

California is the first state in the nation to have such a law, Dunbar said.

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