• by: Cristina Cooper
  • target: Mayor of Santa Monica, Richard Bloom, SMPD, CA Fish & Game Mountain Lion Program Coordinator, Marc Kenyon & Ed Pert, DFG South Coast Region

The lack of knowledge and training in handling wildlife animals in California needs to be re-evaluated desperately. California is surrounded by nature and it seems there is a problem co-existing with natures wildlife.  

In a recent event on May 22, 2012 involving the city of Santa Monica, CA and a young 80-pound mountain lion, questions started being asked after they resulted in lethal action before taking experienced and tactical approaches as listed in the petition letter. The city officials (Santa Monica Police Department) along with the California Fish & Game decided to tranquilize the animal. At first attempt, it failed and before trying again they resulted in water hosing and pepper-balling the young mountain lion before shooting it to death.  

Please read the letter to the Mayor of Santa Monica (which will also be sent to California Fish & Game) for more information on the event and how events like this in the future could be handled differently.

Please sign the petition to help bring awareness to more efficient ways of handling wildlife in our cities without being so quick to use deadly force. We must learn to co-exist with animals and give them a fair chance. They are only trying to survive, just as we are. 

-Personally, I just want to add a note here that I grew up in a house that was literally backed up into the Santa Monica Mountains.  From the time I was 7 until the time I graduated high school I spent a majority of my time around the mountains as did the other kids I went to school with.  We often had school hikes to learn about the nature and animals that surrounded us.  As a teenager, we would go up to the hills to hang out and party where we grew up respecting the nature around us.  We lived in an area where we were taught to co-exist with wildlife.  In those years, not 1 of us kids had ever been attacked by a mountain lion. We were given an education on how to live with animals such as these.  We learned also that mountain lions stay away from humans and are more scared of us then we are of them, but we also were given the knowledge and tools of how to react if a lion did happen to mistake us for prey.  The lion pictured is showing the body language of a scared and confused animal who is trying to hide. With the knowledge I learned as a child, I would simply back away from this lion slowly. There is no indication that aggressive force is needed against this lion as he is trapped in a small enclosure as well as scared.  Why is it that someone, such as myself, who holds nothing but a full-time job in an office, knows more about the behavior of these wild animals than the officials who were involved in this incident?  There is something extremely wrong with that.

Dear Mayor Richard Bloom as well as Chief Seabrooks, Marc Kenyon, Ed Pert &
other fellow City and State Officials,

We desperately urge you to reevaluate the tactics and handling of your police department and the handling of wild animals within your city.

This comes to you after the recent event that occurred at 1227 2nd Street in Santa Monica, CA starting at 6:00am on May 22, 2012.  The Santa Monica Police Department and the California Fish and Game were involved in a situation involving an 80-pound juvenile mountain lion found in a courtyard of an office building in Santa Monica.

As stated by witnesses, the lion appeared to be sleeping in the courtyard while the SMPD secured the area.  During the approximately 3 to 4 hours the animal was secured inside the courtyard, there were no signs of a fully thought out capture, while also keeping this animal alive.  While we do appreciate the decisions that were made to keep safety a number 1 priority, we ask that you consider that there were more effective ways this could have been handled, while also keeping everyone safe as well as keeping the animal safe.

Prop 117 protects these Santa Monica mountain lions. I think we owe it to the lions to help one when it needs it, instead of being so quick to kill it.

Please take into consideration as well that while this may be only 1 lion to you that was destroyed, this could be detrimental to its existence:

This was taken directly from The Mountain Lion Foundation -

According to the National Park Service website, "Genetic analyses indicate that the Santa Monica Mountains mountain lions have low genetic diversity relative to mountain lions in the rest of the state. The long-term survival of a mountain lion population here depends on their ability to move between regions to maintain genetic diversity and overall population health."

National Parks Service scientists have tracked 22 mountain lions with GPS radio collars in the Santa Monica Mountains over the 10 year study. After two male lions were killed last fall — one hit by a car and the other killed and mutilated by a poacher — scientists reported in early 2012 that they now believe only 4 to 8 lions still remain in the range.

If that is true, then the young lion killed today may have substantial impact on the viability of lions in the mountains north of Los Angeles."

I have provided a detailed list of scenarios and tactics that we feel should have been considered in those 3 to 4 hours that the animal was secured inside the office building courtyard.  I would first like to point out that while this animal was not being provoked or harassed with, the animal remained calm and curled up inside the small courtyard. As stated by Andrew Hughan, Fish & Game Department, "It was trapped in a little enclosed area. What wildlife will do is lie down like they do in the woods, trying to hide."  The picture snapped of the young mountain lion within the enclosure clearly illustrates this with its body language; submissively laying on the ground, curled up.

1. As a fact, any animal can be put down by tranquilizers. We have seen this occur recently in the La Crescenta area of CA while a 600-pound black bear was successful tranquilized and removed.  In the event of this 80-pound, 3-year old mountain lion, we clearly observed that the officials involved were not fully trained or  prepared for a situation like this. In our local news resources, it was stated that the tranquilizer dart did in fact hit the lion. If the lion was not brought down, then the dart was not dosed correctly or was not aimed accurately. While dealing with wild animals, officials need to be experienced and fully trained on how exactly to deal with a situation like this.  With adequate education and training, the dose should have been correct the first time, and if not, the official(s) should have come prepared with additional darts in the event the 1st attempt was not successful or did not take effect. 

2. All animals are driven by food for survival and this animal was initially spotted looking for food. With this information, a run to the local grocery store or market, or anyones' refrigerator for that matter would more than likely contain food that may successfully lure the animal or distract it.  For example, much the way we lure in stray cats, a piece of meat often provides a good chance the animal can be lured into a crate and trapped. The meat can also be laced with sedatives that can take effect fairly quickly. 

3. Upon review of several news articles regarding this incident, it was made clear that the lion became agitated after the dart hit him.  The lion became even more agitated when it was hit with strong, loud and violent pepper balls and fire hoses.  Before resulting in these violent and aggressive tactics, netting should have been considered and attempted.  If the problem here was that the lion was trying to flee, most likely from fear, then netting would more than likely disorientate the animal and prohibit it from being able to run. At this point, there could have been at least another dart attempt made to tranquilize the animal. 

4. We as Californian's are fully aware that we live amongst hills, mountains, forests, fields, lakes and oceans that contain wildlife.  If this poses as a problem to individuals of the general public, reconsideration of where they reside should occur or a general understanding of California's wildlife should take place with more education.  This leads me to the next possible tactic that could have been utilized to safely distract the lion.  Once the lion was unsuccessfully hit with the 1st tranquilizer, it was reported by CBS Channel 2 news that the lion, "sort of got spooked, then the animal sort of charged."  Lavender and peppermint plants act as a natural "cat nip" to lions.  If this lion became "sort of" spooked, a good pile of lavender and peppermint vegetation would act as a natural "cat nip" and distract the animal to now become focused on its' new "toy".  Additionally, as the media described the actions of the animal as, "sort of spooked" and "sort of charged", we cannot help but be completely unconvinced by what actually occurred.

5. Please consider calling upon wildlife experts to assist in situations like these.  There are a number of rescue groups in the state of California that specialize in dealing with rescue and rehabilitation of California's wildlife animals.  The police department does not deal with wildlife situations on a daily basis.  They do not capture, medicate, rehabilitate or release animals on a daily basis.  It is not difficult to see that our police departments are in the spotlight everyday protecting the general public, but there are also wildlife groups out of the spotlight who are out there every single day dealing with wildlife animals and protecting the public, as well as protecting the animals...successfully.

Given the above list, we would like to mention that with a good understanding of nature and its' wildlife, we can be more prepared with future events involving our animals and the public.  It is inevitable that these events will continue to happen in Santa Monica and surrounding areas and we feel that our mayors need to take into account that it is not only their job to oversee the protection and safety of the city's public, but also our city's wildlife. We share this land with them and feel even inclined to say that we take away the land from them.  Shouldn't we find ways to make sure everyone, including our city officials are fully prepared, trained and educated on how our wildlife works?  

This does not come as an attack towards you, but there is a need to say that with the tactics used by the police department, (fire hosing and pepper-balling), this may have been the more dangerous approach then the ones that could have been used mentioned above.  The ones mentioned above will more than likely bring a calm and civilized state to the animal with cooperation from both sides.  Using the aggravated tactics of fire-hosing and pepper-balling did not do anything but bring the animal to an aggravated and confused state.  This ultimately is what led to the use of multiple firearms within the city and the death of an innocent animal only trying to survive and protect itself.

Please consider our plea in which to bring about a more efficient, experienced, insightful and knowledgeable plan of action in future circumstances without the senseless use of violent weapons against the inferior party.  As children, we Californian's were always so fascinated by the nature and wildlife of the Santa Monica Mountains that surrounded us.  Please consider more training and education as well as calling in more experienced individuals or rescue groups that specialize in the handling of both domestic and wild animals.  

As Mayor, it is your duty to protect and serve. As a Californian it is all of our duty to protect and serve our wildlife.  They deserve a fair chance and this 80-pound mountain lion wasn't given a chance at all.

Thank you.

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