A young, female mountain lion was shot and killed this morning in Santa Monica. The animal had wandered into the courtyard of several commercial businesses at 1227 2nd St., startling a janitor, Santa Monica police said.
California state Fish and Game officials were called to the scene and as a precaution, police closed 2nd Street to vehicle and pedestrian traffic between Arizona Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
The location of the shooting was a small, nearly enclosed courtyard, a space that could easily be blocked off until experienced wildlife professionals arrived to the scene. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Officials used a tranquilizer gun on the big cat, but when the sedative did not work, they shot and killed her, apparently afraid that she would move into the nearby street.
“We attempted to keep the animal in that enclosure and we attempted to tranquilize the animal,” said Lt. Robert Almada, as reported by CBS Los Angeles. “However, he attempted to escape the enclosure and regrettably the officer had to euthanize the animal.” This scenario, and the excuse used for the death of the mountain lion, seems all too familiar. Is this another case of police shooting first and asking questions later? The same instance on a much greater scale happened last fall, when private zoo owner Terry Thompson released 56 wild animals before taking his own life. Forty eight of the animals were immediately gunned down by police, ending in slaughter within just a few hours. All too often it seems that police shoot first and ask questions later when a wild animal interferes with someone’s shift. So, too, with cops shooting the family’s dog on house calls.
Why not use a second tranquilizer? Bystanders on the scene told Global Animal that pepper spray was not used, an excellent deterrent to keep the mountain lion away from open doors and in an enclosed space until a practical and humane solution was established. Any animal shot with a tranquilizer gun will get agitated at first. Why not just further enclose the (terrified, no doubt) female in the already enclosed area and wait a few minutes for it to take? Pictures taken on the scene show that the body of the deceased mountain lion was in a corner, far from any open doorways, in an enclosed courtyard. She was not running wild in the streets, eating kids and pets.
While some news sources attribute the shooting to public safety measures, no one seems to want to look at the big picture. CBS News seemed unsure why a mountain lion would wander into a populated area, but scientists have long been aware of the increasingly desperate situation of isolated lion populations in the Santa Monica Mountains. In Los Angeles, the multiple freeways have trapped this particular population, causing inbreeding, traffic accidents, and animals to travel into new, urban areas in search of food.
Lions each need a territory of as many as 100 square miles, but the estimated 10 cats in this 275-square mile mountain range are bordered by network of freeways, suburbs and the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s a very unique situation,” said Tim Dunbar, the executive director for the Mountain Lion Foundation, in an article by the Huffington Post. “Usually our urban centers radiate out so there are mountain lions along the edges. What happened in this case is they’ve sort of been ringed in.”
What happened today was an unfortunate case that could have been prevented by proper training methods. Police need to be educated on animal behavior to separate truly dangerous situations from ones with which a bit of patience can save an animals life. The tragedy here is that there are only ten animals left in the Santa Monica Mountains and now there are nine. Law enforcement needs to take more care towards these rare and beautiful animals.