A state wildlife expert reacts to criticism that a warden shot and killed a young mountain lion on Sunday at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. A necropsy is being done.
Relocating the mountain lion that bared its teeth at a 5-year-old boy in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park on Sunday was not an option, because the roughly 1-year-old, 60-pound male had already shown itself to be a public threat, a state wildlife official said today.
"If we were to move that animal, what we're taking is an animal that has shown to be a public safety threat, and we're moving it somewhere else where the same thing may occur again," said Dan Sforza, the assistant chief of enforcement with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Wildlife experts said the mountain lion, apparently separated for its mother, was likely still learning how to hunt and showed no fear of humans. When it started acting aggressively toward the boy, Jackson, someone threw a rock at it, but the cat did not retreat, according to Madison Smith, who was hiking with her 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.
"As soon as Jackson moves back to me, the lion moved into a crouching position, bares its teeth and is ready to pounce on him," she said.
When wildlife officials responded to the report, the mountain lion was found in the same spot on the Borrego Trail where it had been snarling at Smith and her children.
Department of Fish and Wildlife officials made a decision to shoot the cat when they were unable to scare it off. That section of the Borrego Trail is not far from Foothill Ranch Elementary School.