Small deer herd

Deer numbers continue to decline in California because voters elected to give the mountain lion ESA-like protections.

The unintended consequences of do-gooders

The environmental do-gooders who voted to give cougars ESA-like protections in California decades ago may need to eat some crow, though it’s very unlikely they will do so.

The big cats are being seen in greater numbers in highly urbanized areas, including the expensive real estate regions of the Bay Area, according to one newspaper article.

While their access to a deer-a-day is dwindling, their hunger is not.

The article points out that California’s deer population has declined from two million in the 1960s to about 445,000 this winter. Anyone with common sense knows if you increase the number of predators, their prey will tend to suffer an opposite population growth.

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It ought to be comforting for Bay Area residents to read that their multi-million real estate is home to a growing population of mountain lions. According to the article, about 30 lions have been collared and are being tracked in an area between Santa Cruz and Mountain View. For those unaware, the region is peppered with expensive homes nestled in the trees. It’s also not that large an area in the grand scheme of things.

My experience with government wildlife officials suggests they may be under-reporting that count by a significant amount.

The San Francisco Gate story is not the only one reporting on the issue.

A mountain lion reportedly killed a family’s 100-pound German shepherd in a Fontana neighborhood (southern California). Another large cat apparently snatched a large dog from a Sun Valley (Los Angeles area) yard. Video of the cat was captured on a homeowner’s surveillance camera system. A Burbank, Calif. homeowner also reported seeing a cougar in his neighborhood.

Sightings have increased in Orange County, California as well. A lion was shot and killed in nearby Santa Monica by police in 2012 after all non-lethal attempts to capture the wandering cat were unsuccessful.

Experts recognize that California’s deer population is in quick decline. It makes sense that it is only a matter of time before deer herds are eliminated altogether from California. And now there are reports that a solo wolf was tracked roaming the foothills above Red Bluff. The wolf has reportedly found a mate and is living in the forest in southern Oregon.

While the big cat issue is an issue all unto its own, it raises the argument that feel-good policies related to wildlife are doing more harm than good to residents and wildlife in California. The reason this is an issue today is because of a 1990 voter-passed initiative that gave lions “specifically protected species” status. In short, it became illegal to hunt them. While the California Department of Fish and Wildlife refuses to admit lion populations are on the increase, media reports get out from time to time that suggest their numbers are rapidly growing.

Proper policy aimed at protecting wildlife is not the issue. The issue is the over-abundance of feel-good policy and law passed which has no basis in sound science or common sense.  It’s as much an issue with the mountain lions hunting urban neighborhoods of California as it is with a tiny fish that’s only role is to feed predatory fish that some argue are not native to the Delta region of California.


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Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette or reach me at [email protected]

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