Last May, the Mountain Lion Foundation helped bring to light accusations from a disgruntled ex-hunting guide that mountain lions were being killed illegally on the historic 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch, located about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. The whistle-blower claimed that the killings were motivated by anger among ranch managers toward Proposition 117--the 1990 ballot initiative which banned the trophy hunting of mountain lions in California--because the mountain lions dined on prized game animals whose killing-rights the ranch sold to trophy hunters for up to $20,000 each.
The claimant stated that over a five-year period he personally witnessed "twenty mountain lions dead on the ground without a depredation permit." Additional sources have informed MLF that the mortality count could reach as high as 114 dead lions.
Now, almost a year later, the Tejon Ranch Company has completed an internal investigation. While admitting that "there had been incidents where mountain lions were taken on the Ranch" the Company, in an action reminiscent of Pontius Pilate, washed its corporate hands of all criminal wrong doing and blamed those acts on the unauthorized actions of others. To correct that problem, the Tejon Ranch Company has now promised to suspend their commercial hunting operation for a few months while they review and evaluate the Company's hunting and access program.
The illegal killing of all those mountain lions is an incident which could have easily been predicted. Once more lions were in direct competition with humans for the right to kill other animals. In the lion's case it was an act of acquiring food from their natural prey species. As for the humans involved, greed and the desire to eliminate a competitor caused them to act the way they did.
While the ultimate tragedy is the loss of so many precious lions, it is possibly equally tragic that it occurred on property which only a few years ago members of the conservation community touted as a wildlife conservation success story. At that time, a major portion of the original ranch had just received permanent protection from development with a conservation easement. It now appears that the public might have been misled as to the extent of just how much California's wildlife might benefit by only preserving the physical space, yet at the same time allowing a private company to continue a commercial hunting operation which values dollars over wildlife and a healthy ecosystem. A company so out of touch with reality that it claims allowing wealthy hunters to pay them for the right to kill animals is in the "long term best interests of conservation."
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