A mountain lion wandered into Santa Monica and sought refuge in a building's courtyard this morning, not far from the Third Street Promenade. She was shot and killed by fish and game wardens. I have already read too many tired Facebook comments along the lines of, "Next they'll be shooting cougars in Beverly Hills." The whole thing is sickening (so I will refrain from "let's go shop at the maul" jokes.)
How this animal made it down from the Santa Monica Mountains, all the way into the flatlands of Santa Monica, is hard to imagine -- but I suspect hunger and shrinking habitat had something to do with it. How a bunch of Fish and Game wardens with tranquilizing guns couldn't subdue the confused and frightened cat, is also hard to imagine. It reminds me of the debacle in Ohio last summer, when exotic animals, set free from a private zoo, were hunted down and shot in a mass slaying that defied comprehension. In both cases, the animals were displaying erratic behavior. Er... could because they were lost in an unfamiliar and hostile environment and were rightfully terrified? Erratic behavior seems reasonable to me.
This story is heartbreaking, not only for this particular puma, but for the dwindling population of these magnificent beasts native to our environment. It seems that there is no end to the violence perpetrated on these animals. It has been a bad year for mountain lions all across the country, and this is one more shameful example of a Fish & Game Commission that treats native animals as pests, rather than as the precious, irreplaceable resources they are.
I have a particular fondness for cougars since my own close encounter with one a few years ago.
The one shot this morning was a juvenile female, so I don't imagine its the same cat I saw in 2006. But it is likely a too-close relation. These beautiful animals are suffering from inbreeding, due largely to a dwindling population as they kill each other for food and hunting ground.
It is time to re-vamp and re-assess animal control policy in this country. Certainly, a terrified cougar poses a threat to the human population, but instead of going in with bullets, can we not come up with more humane ways to subdue and relocate animals back into safe habitats? This cougar weighed a slight 85 pounds, and was trying (unsuccessfully) to leap over a fence and escape. I would bet she was moments away from sleep. I am no expert in this area, just a concerned citizen, who wants to see humans behave more humanely. A cougar caught me in her environment and let me live, I'd like us to return the favor.