|Santa Monica Lookout|
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Santa Monica Police Implement Wildlife Policy
By Lookout Staff
July 3, 2012 -- A month after police fatally shot a mountain lion in Downtown Santa Monica in May, the department will implement a new policy for capturing wildlife that includes additional training and new equipment, police officials said.
The measures were among the key recommendations made by a focus group composed of park and wildlife officials, law enforcement and animal rights advocates during a meeting last week hosted by the Santa Monica Police Department.
"The group’s participants readily acknowledged that although public safety must be the primary consideration under such circumstances, the safe capture of wildlife is a valued response which is subject to a complex series of variables," Sgt. Richard Lewis, the Police Department spokesman, said in a statement.
"Accordingly, it was agreed that when wild animals are encountered in urban settings, a successful animal capture may be elusive," Lewis added.
In addition to the training and equipment, the department will develop a system to notify experts in capturing wild animals, Lewis said. It also will explore ways to reduce the incursions of wildlife into urban areas.
The male lion that wandered into a lush office courtyard in Downtown Santa Monica in the early morning hours of May 22 was the first lion sighted in the City in more than 30 years, police said.
Although still a rare occurrence, mountain lions seem to be wandering into urban areas, like Santa Monica, which is near the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the country’s largest (153,000 acres) urban national park, experts said.
The killing of the three-year-old, male lion weighing 95 pounds, triggered a debate, with some justifying the action by police, while others argued that it was an unnecessary killing of an animal that should have been captured and returned to the wild.
Police said they took extraordinary measures to capture the lion before shooting it, Lewis said.
"The Santa Monica Police Department presented a comprehensive timeline detailing the various efforts undertaken to safely capture the mountain lion," Lewis said. "Although these efforts lasted for more than three hours, they were ultimately unsuccessful."
The focus group was composed of representatives from the City of Santa Monica, the California Department of Fish and Game, the National Park Service and California State University Channel Islands.
Also taking part were the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCA-LA), In Defense of Animals, Animal Advocates, Fund for Animals Wildlife Center and local veterinarians.
The group’s participants shared insights on the mountain lion population which inhabits the Santa Monica Mountains, their migratory habits and general behavioral patterns," Lewis said.
"Methods of wild animal capture were also discussed including the inherent risks and the reasonableness of those methods when applicable in real-life scenarios," he said.
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