Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

-- Albert Einstein

PRIMAL SCREAMING

A young mountain lion found Sunday morning in a Gilroy backyard has been released back into the wild for all the wrong reasons.

Bay City News Service reports a Fish and Game warden estimated the cub was 4 to 6 months old, weighing 30 to 40 pounds. He said it was skinny and smelled like a skunk, but appeared healthy.

The warden released the cub into a Fish and Game wildlife area in eastern Santa Clara County.

A woman who lived in the house went to check when her puppy wouldn't stop barking. She saw the cub sitting on the fence. It had been eating dog food she left in the yard.

An animal control officer tranquilized the lion and it was turned over to the warden when he arrived.

Although lions found in residential areas usually have to be killed, "This one is considered a special case," the warden said in the story. The cat hadn't made any menacing gestures, such as hissing or growling, and it's likely it was just lost or had been pushed out of a nearby territory, he continued.

Dealing with lions that wander into town can be frustrating. What usually happens is they get shot in the name of public safety.

In some cases shooting the lions is the only solution. But in others it may be possible to return them to the wild.

I've suggested before that DFG hold training programs for law enforcement on dealing with lions.


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Wardens won't always be around to help with these encounters. There's a big warden shortage in the state now and this may already be a problem.

We also need a team of experts to develop new ideas to protect humans and lions when they bump heads.

So now, when the department finally releases a young lion after it wanders into a backyard, instead of being delighted, I find myself further frustrated.

In this particular case, the cat should have been held and carefully evaluated first before it was released.

  • A cougar cub this age is usually still with its mother learning how to hunt. A "skinny" cub in a yard eating dog food obviously has problems hunting in the wild. Did it lose its mom? Smelling like a skunk also indicates it was so desperate to find food it was attacking skunks.

    This young lion may not have reached the stage where it could survive on its own. It may now starve to death. Or it may wander back into town.

  • It was released because it "hadn't made any menacing gestures, such as hissing or growling."

    I handled orphaned wild mountain lions when I worked in wildlife rehabilitation, one just 2 months old, and all hissed and growled ferociously.

    A 4- to 6-month-old mountain lion should have had plenty of "menacing gestures, such as hissing or growling" to pass around. So why was it acting so docile? Was it sick?

  • The warden was quoted as saying, "Mountain lions are territorial animals and if one is placed into another cat's territory, the weaker one will either be killed or pushed out, often forcing it into areas populated by humans." (Like into a back yard?)

    So how do they know the place where they released this young cat isn't the territory of a big adult mountain lion that will do this again?

    They really do need to put together a standing team of mountain lion experts so they can devise a standard set of plans to deal with these human vs. mountain lion encounters in an intelligent way, instead of an impromptu response that doesn't consider all the ramifications of releasing a starving cub.

    These encounters are probably going to get more frequent as we humans continue to encroach on their territory.

    We need to start doing this right, folks. Otherwise, one day, somebody besides the lion is going to get hurt.

    Find more Gary in his blog at blogs.contracostatimes.com/garybogue; write Gary, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099; old columns at ContraCostaTimes.com, click on Columns; e-mail garybug@infionline.net.