Mountain lions killed after killing puppy and goats
A mountain lion recently killed goats and a puppy in Indian Valley; sightings are widespread. Photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Game
There have been several mountain lion sightings in Indian Valley recently, causing some concern among ranchers and residents alike.
A mountain lion was taken under depredation permit Monday, Jan. 23, after it killed a border collie puppy over the weekend in Genesee, and another two lions were killed Wednesday, Jan. 25.
The puppy was taken right off a well-lit porch at the home of Brian and Heather Kingdon early Saturday evening, with adult dogs around and the owners inside watching television.
Another lion that killed goats on a neighboring ranch was still being pursued, according to local Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Warden Kyle Kroll.
Van Probst, well known for his lion tracking abilities and work with landowners and local game wardens, killed the lions.
“I think there’s two yearlings and a female,” Probst said of the first three lions seen in the Genesee area.
He thinks maybe the lion’s offspring have been recently forced out on their own and know where the easy prey is.
Kroll, local game warden formerly of Gilroy, agrees with Probst about there being more than one lion hunting in the Genesee community.
He’s awarded about six to 10 permits a year to residents with lion-versus-livestock problems.
The encounters do not surprise Probst, for he knows the lions will follow the deer down off the mountainsides in the area during periods of bad weather.
He’s received several calls lately about mountain lion sightings in Indian Valley.
“There’s a lot of them out there,” he finished.
Residents have spotted one mountain lion above Williams Valley Road, one at Stampfli Lane near Crescent Mills, and at Christmastime one along North Valley Road, about five miles from Greenville.
No humans have been killed by mountain lions in Plumas County, according to history recorded by DFG, though there have been a few close encounters reported for the region.
One such encounter related by former warden Bob Orange back in 1994 involved a fly fisherman in Yellow Creek who batted a lion about the nose with the tip of his fishing pole while he yelled for help and slowly backed up to where his friend was fishing.
Heather Kingdon reported that another lion was killed Thursday, Jan. 26, bringing the total number of Genesee lions killed under depredation permit to four.
One lion was killed with the puppy in its mouth, and the other three were killed upon returning to the goats they killed in her father’s barn.
“My father has a guard dog,” Kingdon said. “However, she was no match for three to four lions at a time.”
Warden Byron Hernandez, who issued the depredation permits, refused to comment personally, instead directing questions to his department’s official information sources.
Several contacts were attempted, unsuccessfully, before press time.
Mountain lions are not endangered or threatened, yet they are a specially protected animal and may not be hunted without a depredation permit.
The hunting of mountain lions was banned back in the early 1970s, when the population was low.
In the 1990s, the population had recovered enough that the state tried to reopen a limited hunting season, Kroll said, but it was stopped by litigation from animal rights groups before opening day.
Not only was it stopped, the groups pushed for legislation and a vote of the people that basically ended the ability to legally hunt lions in California.
It was mainly voters from Los Angeles and San Francisco, Kroll added, because of the money animal rights groups spent on television advertising.
To restore a managed lion population, like deer, bear and other game animals, it would take another vote of the people.
“There is a healthy population right now,” he said.
The DFG website offers the following tips and information:
—Do not hike, bike or jog alone, especially when mountain lions are most active: at dawn, dusk and at night.
—Keep a close watch on children.
—If an encounter occurs, do not run. Face the lion, make noise, wave your arms and try to look bigger. Pick children up. Throw rocks or sticks.
—If attacked, fight back, and call 911 immediately.
Don’t attract lions
—Don’t feed deer or other wildlife that may be prey.
—Avoid planting shrubs deer like to eat and trim brush to remove hiding places.
—Don’t leave small children or pets outside unattended, and don’t let pets outside at dawn, dusk or at night.
—Bring pet food inside to avoid attracting raccoons, skunks and other potential lion prey.
Depredation permit needed
It is illegal to hunt or kill mountain lions in California, unless one has a depredation permit issued by a DFG warden, or if it is an immediate threat to human safety.
Mountain lions that threaten people are killed immediately. Those that prey on pets or livestock can be killed after the required depredation permit is issued.
Trapping and moving mountain lions is not an option, due to potential conflicts with other lions, which inhabit more than half of the state, wherever deer are found.
To contact the DFG for a permit, call the Northern California North Coast Region office in Redding at 225-2300.
Depredation permit statistics
From 1999 to 2009, there were 2,117 depredation permits issued statewide. Of those, 54 were issued in Plumas County, 37 in Lassen and 16 in Sierra.
In DFG records dating back to 1972, the counties with the highest numbers of depredation permits issued were Mendocino, with 635 permits and 317 killed, and El Dorado, with 339 and 111 killed. Plumas, in comparison, had 106 permits and 49 killed; Lassen had 83 and 43; and Sierra had 30 and 16.
There has not been a verified mountain lion attack on a human since January 2007, when a 70-year-old man lived after being attacked while at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County.
Commonly asked questions
Q: Are mountains lions listed as a threatened or endangered species?
A: Mountain lions are not threatened or endangered in California.
In fact, the lion population is relatively high in California and their numbers appear to be stable.
Mountain lions are legally classified as a “specially protected species.”
This has nothing to do with their relative abundance and does not imply that they are rare.
Q: What causes a mountain lion to display unusually bold behavior toward humans?
A: Sometimes disease will cause an animal to behave strangely.
Some mountain lions killed for public safety reasons have tested positive for feline leukemia.
A mountain lion that attacked a man in Mendocino County in 1994 tested positive for rabies.
Usually, there is no apparent explanation for why a mountain lion seems to abandon its instinctive wariness of humans.
Mountain lions are typically solitary and elusive.
Studies of collared mountain lions show that they often co-exist around people, unseen and unheard.
Q: Are mountain lion numbers increasing or decreasing in California?
A: Without an ongoing statewide mountain lion study, it is impossible to know what is happening on a statewide basis with populations.
However, there are indications that mountain lion activity, such as depredation, attacks on people and predation on prey populations, peaked in 1996, then decreased somewhat, and have remained stable for the past several years.
Q: Why can’t mountain lions be hunted in California?
A: With the passage of Proposition 117 in 1990, mountain lions became a “specially protected species,” making mountain lion hunting illegal in California.
This status and other statutes prohibit DFG from recommending a hunting season for lions, and it is illegal to take, injure, possess, transport, import or sell any mountain lion or part of a mountain lion.
Mountain lions may be killed only if a depredation permit is issued to take a specific lion killing livestock or pets; to preserve public safety; or to protect listed bighorn sheep.