Photograph of a rose and note left at the tree where the lion was shot.

Put Down the Rifle Today

Amy Rodrigues, MLF Outreach Coordinator

The story of a mountain lion death in Redwood City, California has clarified the need for better community planning. Taking action now can prevent fatal reactions in the future. When a lion comes too close for comfort, you can help to give the wild cat an opportunity to move on... and survive.

Question: When is the best time to intervene in a situation where a lion is about to be shot?

Answer: Many months ago.

It is heartbreaking each time MLF staff and volunteers learn of another mountain lion needlessly killed at the hands of humans. Whether the death came as a result of sport hunting, depredation permit, public safety kill or road kill, the result is always the same - one less lion playing out its role in the wild.

It is heart-wrenching when a call is received from a concerned citizen alerting MLF that a lion is about to be killed and demanding that something be done. These situations are almost always the result of a local authority declaring this particular lion a public safety threat. Once that declaration is made and the hunt is on, it is impossible for MLF to stop the bullet from being fired. Staff can and do help each caller understand the best on-the-scene tactics to avoid the lion being killed, or at least being killed in vain.

QUESTION:
When is the best time to intervene in a situation where a lion is about to be shot?

Everyday MLF proactively strives to implement policies and procedures that will protect mountain lions. The majority of this work is done at the state and regional level, and more recently at the national level. MLF relies on its members to reinforce these policies and procedures locally with neighbors, schools and decision makers.

ANSWER:
Many months ago.

In practically every case where a lion is killed as a public safety threat, there is no plan of action in place. Local authorities are faced with making a decision on the spur of the moment while parents and schools worry about the safety of their children. Armed with knowledge and a plan of action, parents and schools won't needlessly worry and authorities will have the time to make the best decision.

How can you make a difference in how your community responds to mountain lions? Using tools provided by MLF, you can:

  • Distribute educational brochures.
  • Conduct or sponsor an educational presentation.
  • Contribute MLF articles to local newsletters for publication.
  • Write opinion pieces for your local newspapers or newsletters.
  • Respond and comment on articles published in print and online.
  • Encourage local news to broadcast MLF PSAs when there is a lion sighting.
  • Distribute door hangers in your neighborhood when there is a lion sighting.
  • Provide your local authorities with a copy of the "Cougar Management Guidelines."

How do we know this works? After a similar incident took place in Palo Alto in 2004, just 15 minutes away form Redwood City, law enforcement protocol for handling mountain lions changed. Following the shooting, the pubic mourned the loss of the lion and took a stand, demanding this was not the way their wildlife would be managed.

Today, Palo Alto and other areas of Santa Clara County have a humane response plan which includes using an automated reverse-911 phone system to notify residents of sightings, the non-lethal hazing of lions to scare them out of town, and public education meetings to discuss mountain lion biology and behavior. Residents are coexisting with their wild neighbors and realize that merely seeing a lion does not constitute a public safety threat.

The same thing can happen in Redwood City if the public speaks up. You are the voice for the lions in your area.

Today is the best time to stop the rifle from being aimed tomorrow at a lion. Help your neighbors understand that mountain lions are here, they are important, and when they come too close for comfort, they will move on given the opportunity.