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Santa Monica Lawmaker to Introduce Legislation After Mountain Lion Attacks
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 1, 2016 -- A Santa Monica state lawmaker said Thursday that he is introducing legislation that could help spare a death sentence for mountain lions like the five-year-old male puma suspected of killing scores of farm animals in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The killing spree linked to P-45 -- the 45th puma tagged in the Santa Monica Mountains -- enabled a Malibu rancher who lost livestock last weekend, to receive a permit from a state game warden which allows the shooting of a mountain lion under such circumstances.

Picture of P-45 mountain lion
Picture of P-45 ( Photo by National Park Service)

Bloom's proposed legislation would give the state more flexibility on how it deals with protected wildlife that might pose a danger to livestock, including the use of noon-lethal tools.

“The recent events concerning the mountain lion P-45 have raised many questions about how to coexist in the urban-wildlife interface,” said Bloom, D-Santa Monica. “It is clear that incidents of depredation need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.”

P-45’s fate has created an uproar among environmentalists and animal rights groups. They say the 10-day license to kill the puma is not necessary and that farms animals, pets, residents and visitors can be protected in different ways.

On Wednesday, Victoria Vaughn-Perling, the rancher issued the permit to kill P-45, has asked to change the permit so she can capture the mountain lion “in a safe, non-harmful cage, and then relocate the animal to the Wildlife Waystation,” said her attorney Reid Breitman.

"Wildlife Waystation is a large private animal sanctuary in the foothills of Los Angeles, home to over 400 wild and exotic animals,” he said. “Martine Colette, their executive director and founder, has confirmed that the Wildlife Waystation will accept and protect P-45.”

Breitman said his law firm, Kuzyk Law, LLP, will pay all costs related to transporting P-45 to the waystation.

“We are not asking the government to incur any expense relating to this,” he said.

On Wednesday, Bloom and State Senator Ben Allen of Santa Monica had urged that the mountain lion be spared and said that the permit should be rescinded to shoot P-45, who is being monitored as part of a National Park Service collared animal study.

P-45 was known to be in the area at the time of the animal killings, the legislators said in a joint statement.

Allen and Bloom said the mountain lion population should be protected while efforts continue for a proposed connective wildlife corridor over Freeway 101 at Liberty Canyon Road.

The proposed 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long overpass would connect the southern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, which is thee nation's largest urban forest, with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains (for more information click here).

Saving P-45 “requires engaging local communities, wildlife agencies, and all stakeholders to preserve the unique environmental gem that is the Santa Monica Mountains, setting an example for co-existence and stewardship for future generations,” the legislators said.

Vaughn-Perling said P-45 has terrorized her for the last several months, killing twenty Alpacas and at least 65 animals belonging to neighbors in the area in the last eight months.

Her neighbors fear being mauled or killed by this lion, she said. Despite receiving the permit however, Vaughn-Perling said she doesn't want to harm P-45.

“I obtained the kill permit in order to save P-45's life,” she said. “P-45 has been very aggressive and active in the area, and a kill permit was issued by the Department of Fish & Wildlife earlier this year to another neighbor about a mile away. That resulted in P-45 being wounded by a rifle shot, but fortunately he survived.”

"It is only a matter of time when someone will get a kill permit, and successfully kill P-45," Vaughn-Perling said.

In addition, she said, under California law a permit is not required to protect people, pets or livestock from an imminent attack by a mountain lion.

“So, someone will encounter P-45 on their property and just kill him in self-defense, and get an after-the-fact permit,” she said.

Vaughn-Perling says she will proceed with killing the lion as a last resort if she is not given a permit to relocate it within the next few days.

In May 2012, Santa Monica police said they were forced to kill a mountain lion who strayed into a downtown courtyard endangering the public ("Santa Monica Goes Wild," May 23, 2012).

Since 2002, the National Park Service has been studying how mountain lions survive in the region’s increasingly urbanized landscape. Researchers have monitored more than 50 mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains.

GPS collars provide detailed information about the animals' ecology and behavior, the park service said.

But the long-term survival of mountain lions in the region is threatened by urbanization, state park officials said. The big cats are confined by the Pacific Ocean and freeways and cannot move through other wilderness areas to reproduce.

Lions in the Santa Monica Mountains have among the lowest genetic diversity of any mountain lion population ever documented, park officials say

P-45 is particularly important because he is not part of the dominant genetic pool for mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.

He “could be critical in preserving the local population,” Allen and Bloom said.

The department said in a statement that P-45’s behavior was not “abnormal or aberrant in any way.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, California Director of the National Wildlife Federation, urged all all parties to work together.

“We are committed to working with the community to develop solutions to prevent both the loss of livestock and domestic animals, as well as mountain lions," Pratt-Bergstrom said. "This includes providing financial assistance to livestock owners to give them the resources needed to secure animals from predators.

"Working together, we can all ensure a healthy future for people, mountain lions and other wildlife in this highly urbanized landscape,” she said.

The National Park Service, however, says the only long-term solution to keeping the big cats around Los Angeles is erecting mountain lion-proof enclosures for pets and livestock.

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