DEEGAN ON LA-A recent state-sanctioned murder of a mountain lion known as P-56 (photo above), in the Santa Monica Mountains, has sparked community and politico outrage.
The man with the 007-like “license to kill” is an unidentified rancher that had applied to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a “depredation permit” to kill the apparently felonious mountain lion whose crime was to eat twelve of the rancher’s sheep. In plain language, a “depredation” means a murder with permission of the state.
The dead cat had a name --”P-56”-- and a home south of the 101 Freeway in the western area of the Santa Monica Mountains, and a family consisting of P-70, P-71, P-72 and P-73 who survive their father, as does his grandmother P-19. His brother P-55 preceded him in death.
The sheep-eating crime, followed by the execution, was committed in Cabrillo. The tragedy of this murderous act is that while there is no shortage of sheep and the rancher’s flock is easily replaceable, P-56 is one of two known male mountain lions in the territory he called home, whose murder instantly cut the breeder population in that mountain lion range in half.
Taking the long view, it can be said that this murder pushes the danger of reducing the mountain lion population into the Red Zone, bordering on extinction. The alarm is being sounded by Councilmembers Paul Koretz (CD5) and David Ryu (CD4) who both have large numbers of constituents living in the hills where the mountain lions settled long before the first cantilevered house was built on the hillsides.
As Councilmember Koretz, author of the City’s biodiversity and wildlife habitat connectivity initiatives, has pointed out: “There continues to be an insane disconnect between the important conservation work we are doing in a time when we are racing the clock to protect our native species and habitat in face of the 6th global mass extinction, overbuilding, corporate poisoning practices like rodenticides, and a rapidly changing climate. . .while the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is undermining our work by handing out depredation permits on an apex predator just trying to survive in his natural habitat. We can do better and we must.”
Councilmember David Ryu (CD4) was even more stark, using statistics every school child would understand: “There is a 1 in 4 chance they will go extinct in the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountains within 50 years. . . .The Southern California mountain lion is the symbol of LA's wildlife,” continued Ryu. “It is the apex predator at the top of a diverse ecosystem you can't find anywhere else on Earth. But today, our iconic mountain lions face the possibility of extinction.”
The City Council Resolution that Koretz and Ryu introduced demands halting of depredation permits to murder mountain lions. The Resolution further seeks to establish an indemnity fund to reimburse affected individuals who lose animals to a mountain lion; and also asks that the City of Los Angeles support the listing of the Southern California/Central Coast mountain lions as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act.
Not waiting for Sacramento to act, one of Los Angeles’ leading wildlife advocacy agencies is calling on the public to rally right now. "In the face of persistent threats to its long term survival, it becomes our inherent responsibility to do all we can to protect the Southern California mountain lion from extinction; our failure to do so threatens the delicate balance of our fragile ecosystems to the detriment of all,” declared Tony Tucci, co-founder, and co-director of Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife (CLAW). “It is unconscionable that over the past five years, an average of over 100 big cats a year have been killed legally under California's flawed depredation law,” he said.
In this “007 meets P-56” scenario, the good guy got killed. Now it's up to the politicos and their constituents to push for stronger mountain lion protection.
(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose DEEGAN ON LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at email@example.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
Tags: Tim Deegan, Deegan on LA, P-56, depredation law, California mountain lion, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Paul Koretz, David Ryu, LA City Council, California Endangered Species Act, Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife (CLAW)