It’s always a bit appalling but not surprising when an uninitiated person stumbles upon a mountain lion and, frightened out of their wits, decides that killing it is the only action left to them. It’s more than a bit appalling and should be surprising when the same is done by state wildlife agencies. These are supposed to be trained, professional individuals, after all.
Unfortunately, something seems to happen to people’s brains when they go to work for state agencies. Let’s call it BBRD for Bureaucratic Brain Rot Disease. Politics and keeping their jobs then becomes the overriding personal concerns once BBRD kicks in.
The latest example of BBRD and its effect on wildlife management occurred in California. Despite the fact they live in a state known for its Liberalism and “live and let live” lifestyle, officials at the California Department of Fish and Game killed a couple of 25-30 pound mountain lion kittens…not adults, kittens…claiming that “tranquilizing even small lions is too risky and could put the public in danger if the animals try to flee”. Frankly, the public was in a lot more danger from the wildlife officers who decided they needed to use firearms in the vicinity of the public, because if the kittens weren’t in the vicinity of the public, why did they even feel they had to shoot them in the first place?
Let me show you how dangerous a sedated mountain lion cub is.
It’s been a while since this picture was taken, but my memory is that the cub was thought to be about 40 lbs and between six and nine months old. As you can see here, the kitten was drugged silly and easily handled. While I don’t remember the exact number, I do remember our biologist (Dr. John Laundre) stating that there was a minimum weight below which he didn’t like to tranquilize the kittens because of the threat to the kitten. It’s possible that the California kittens were too small to be tranquilized. If that’s true, then they were hardly a significant threat to the public, especially to a couple of game wardens used to handling two legged predators that weigh nine to ten times as much.
I only went on two mountain lion research expeditions, but during my time, I never saw a significant problem when we attempted to tranquilize our cats (and we always got them). They almost always ran after they had been hit with the tranquilizer but they never got far and also we had dogs that may have contributed to their desire to flee. The number of stories I’ve seen coming out of California and talking about CDFG specifically that illustrate bungled tranquilizing attempts make me wonder who the hell is training these guys and what kind of tranquilizer mix they are using. The public in California has voted to protect the species even when it results in human-critter conflict, so why is it that CDFG seems to lean the other way? Can’t they wait a couple of hours more to get back to watching their movies?
Unfortunately, they are not alone. State agencies in general, seem ill-prepared to preserve and usually politically bent not to preserve our predators, which is why I have so little faith in any of them. If you want to preserve an ecosystem, you’ve got to take it as whole and not as something you can bend to our own design. We’re just not smart enough to figure it all out, especially when we don’t even try to think it through.