An officer-involved shooting in Sunland last Friday afternoon — between a warden and a young male mountain lion — has L.A. animal advocates calling for justice.
According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) spokesman Andrew Hughan, a resident of the foothills near the Angeles National Forest called 911 after spotting a mountain lion in her garage. The LAPD was first on scene, but no blood was shed until a DFG warden showed up, according to Hughan.
By that time, says the DFG spokesman, the lion had moved from the garage to “some wooded area near a couple houses.”
But that apparently wasn't far enough to put the public out of danger.
After using his best judgment, the warden decided to “dispatch” the intruder, says Hughan. In other words — blow its brains out and haul it away, like a certain DFG commissioner on his day off.
But at least when Dan Richards murdered his mountain lion (in Idaho, where it's legal), he feasted upon it and compared it, delightedly, to pork loin. The 80-pounder killed in the Angeles Forest foothills, on the other hand, seems to have died for nothing.
None of the neighbors who spoke with KTLA had been approached by the lion. DFG spokesman Hughan, however, argues that the warden on the other end of the gun is an “extremely competent” guy (“I know him very well,” says Hughan) who made the best possible split-second decision based on the circumstances.
“It's exactly like a SWAT team would do,” says Hughan. “The level of force depends on the situation.”
To those who argue the lion could have been tranquilized, Hughan responds: “Putting a tranquilizing dart is not like the movies. It takes 10 minutes or more for darts to take effect. … If you dart that lion and it runs out onto the 210 at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, you can imagine the carnage.”
(Actually, you don't have to imagine. Gory photo evidence here.)
He says the giant black bear famously tranquilized near Glendale a couple weeks ago appeared so terrified that, unlike Friday's mountain lion, DFG officers determined he would sit still and cooperate if tranquilized.
“If that bear had mauled the guy on the cellphone, we would have killed that bear, too,” says Hughan.
One KTLA reader argues that humans can easily shoo mountain lions away themselves, and need not call upon wardens with guns:
“Next time one of the Sunland invaders who are living among the resident mountain lions sees one of the big cats, just get a couple of pots and pans and bang them together loudly. The mountain lion will leave the area.”
What do you think? Should DFG's public-safety policy err a tad more sympathetic on the side of Angeles Forest natives?