Big Sur lion shot dead by resident who lost two dogs

By CHRIS COUNTS

Published: May 25, 2007

AFTER A series of attacks on local dogs, a Big Sur mountain lion was shot and killed May 15 by a caretaker for a family whose dog was killed by the lion the day before, according to local residents and the California Department of Fish and Game.

According to CDFG spokesman Kyle Orr, the man who shot the lion lost another of his dogs in April. As many as 15 dogs disappeared over the last two months in the area of Pfeiffer Beach, which is about 27 miles south of Carmel.

After a dog was killed early last week, Orr explained, the dog’s owner followed blood and drag marks, and found a mountain lion standing over his dog. He fired a shot and “dispatched the lion.”

Orr said the lion was a 7-year-old male that weighed about 100 pounds.

All of the attacks occurred along a narrow coastal strip of land that is one of the most densely populated and developed parts of Big Sur.

The attacks sent a ripple of fear through the rural coastal community. One resident, after losing one of her dogs, began to watch her other dog “like a hawk.” Despite her best efforts, her other dog disappeared one night just seconds after it was let out her front door. The lion evidently was hiding nearby and waiting for the dog to come outside.

A 10-day depredation permit for the mountain lion was issued by CDFG in April, but the predator managed to elude the efforts of a federal trapper.

“We always tell people that mountain lions see you much more often than you see them,” Orr said.

A second 10-day depredation permit was issued and active when the mountain lion was shot.

“Everything was absolutely done according to the law,” Orr explained.

California is the only state that has made lions a protected species. Proposition 117, a ballot initiative passed in 1990, prohibits the hunting or trapping of lions. Violators face up to $10,000 in fines and a year in jail. But killing a lion is permitted if it is attacking farm animals or threatening humans.

In 2006, CDFG issued three depredation permits for lions in Monterey County, Orr reported. Only one lion was killed.

Mountain lions prefer to eat deer. But the encroachment of civilization in recent years has altered many California landscapes, resulting in more lion sightings and encounters. Also, the lion population has dramatically increased. In 1920, about 500 mountain lions existed in the state. By the 1970s, that number had climbed to more than 2,000. Today, researchers estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 lions live in California.

“More than half the state is mountain lion habitat,” Orr said. “They are definitely out there.”

Several thousand animals might not seem like much, but lions — which are very solitary and territorial by nature — require large territories ranging from 25 square miles to almost 300 square miles.