The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously last week to provide the vulnerable local mountain lion population temporary endangered species status.
The vote formally advances the petition to list six mountain lion populations in Southern and Central California, including those in the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountains, with full endangered species status under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The commission will hold public hearings as part of its review process and permanent protection for the big cats could go into effect by 2022.
“A new day is on the horizon for these apex predators and I applaud the Fish and Game Commission for extending these critical protections,” State Senator Henry Stern, who represents Malibu and chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, said in an emailed statement. “But we can only truly prevent extinction on our watch if this momentum can finally fuel a comprehensive solution, where wildlife overpasses don our risky freeways and deadly rodenticides are a thing of the past. The campaign to save the California mountain lion continues, stronger than ever before.”
Stern testified at the Fish and Game Commission hearing about the urgency of endangered species protections.
On Feb. 12, Stern, fellow State Senator Ben Allen, and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom and Laura Friedman urged the commission to take action following the shooting death of P-56, one of only two known breeding male mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The shooting occurred as a result of a Camarillo rancher being issued a “depredation permit” by the state after the mountain lion killed several sheep over a period of time. The rancher’s actions caused a public uproar throughout the region.
In another effort to save the cougars, AB 1788 (sponsored by Stern, Bloom and Friedman), currently sits in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill would heavily restrict the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (rat poisons) in California—another leading cause of death for local mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes.