On Saturday, two mountain lion kittens were killed in Half Moon Bay by California Department of Fish and Game wardens.
The 25 to 30 pound cats were spotted on Friday and officers reportedly tried to shoo them towards Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park - located just half a mile east of town.
The park also connects to the San Francisco State Fish and Game Refuge to the north and Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve to the south.
When the siblings were seen again Saturday huddled in a backyard on the edge of town, CDFG wardens felt they had no choice but to kill them. A spokeswoman for the department said tranquilizing even small lions is too risky and could put the public in danger if the animals try to flee.
Others question how much danger two house cat-sized lion kittens really pose, and feel the department should have done more to resolve the situation without lethal force.
Additional criticism arose after the department also speculated the cats were nine-months-old and might have been pushed out of their territory by an older lion. Both of these predictions do not match up with basic mountain lion biology, nor are they consistent with the estimated weight of the cats. A thirty pound lion is closer to half of the age guesstimated by the department and is far too young for a lion to have its own territory.
Mountain lion kittens are dependent on their mother until they reach approximately 18 months of age. During this first year and a half of life, a mother lion will frequently stash her kittens in a safe place while she is off hunting. Young lions are unable to protect themselves or outrun a predator, and so survival relies on the ability to stay still, quiet, and camouflaged in the brush until mom returns.
CDFG reported the two kittens did not run away when wardens approached and appeared to have blank stares on their faces. This natural instinct of trying to stay undetected was unfortunately interpreted as being accustomed to people and an immediate threat to public safety... which justified shooting the pair.
The Mountain Lion Foundation is continuing to investigate this killing and has offered its assistance to the department to revise the state's mountain lion public safety procedures and help fund non-lethal methods.
If you have any additional information about the Half Moon Bay incident, please contact us. Your input is greatly appreciated as we continue our investigation.
The Mountain Lion Foundation is asking everyone frustrated by this incident to contact CDFG Director Bonham. Tell him the Department's actions are unacceptable and non-lethal wildlife policies need to be implemented today!