When we take away wild places for wild animals, those animals find ways of showing up in our backyard. When that animal is a predator all hell breaks loose, suburban-wild style. This was exemplified by last week’s hysterical reaction to a California mountain lion known as “P-22” found in the crawl space under a house. We must conquer that cultural paranoia if we are to coexist with wild animals. And we must stop destroying wild lands if we don’t want wild animals showing up in our backyards.
In the past 30 years, three people out of more than 30 million have been fatally injured by a mountain lion in California; less than a dozen fatalities in 125 years in the U.S (a handful more if you add Canada and Mexico). California Fish & Wildlife estimate a person is 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion. So why are we so afraid of attacks?
What’s the Law?
On June 5, 1990, Californian voters approved Proposition 117 – the Mountain Lion Initiative – (called the “People’s Initiative” after Mountain Lion Foundation volunteers gathered more than 680,000 signatures to put it on the ballot). Prop 117 did two important things: it banned trophy hunting and it helped save land for mountain lions to stay wild.
Prop 117 created a Habitat Conservation Fund of $1 million a year until 2020 to “acquire, enhance, restore” wild lands for wildlife. That Proposition also changed mountain lions from “game” hunted for “sport” to “specially protected mammals” who aren’t allowed to be killed for fun.
A property owner can kill a mountain lion who threatens humans or animals only with a depredation permit. This permit is required by law and even with this permit a person is prohibited from the use of “poison, leg-hold or metal-jawed traps and snares.” Breaking this law can lead to criminal charges.