• Bigger Reward Might Catch Mountain Lion Poacher •
BY ANNE SOBLE
Would an increase in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed one of the declining number of local mountain lions provide added incentive for someone to turn in the poacher? Those investigating the cat's demise say yes.
The cougar known as P-15 (the P is for the animal species name Puma concolor) regularly traveled throughout Malibu as it explored the extent of the Santa Monica Mountains. Malibuites have reported seeing the handsome animal that was radio-collared by the National Park Service to learn more about its behavior.
The seven-year-old male mountain lion's remains were discovered last month on the westernmost flank of the Santa Monicas. The big cat had been tracked for two years by National Park Service researchers, but in late August its radio collar stopped transmitting signals.
The state Department of Fish and Game opened an official investigation into the case after it was determined that P-15 did not die of natural causes and its body had been severely mutilated for trophy purposes. DFG's Andrew Hughan said, "Unfortunately, there are no leads at all." Hughan added, "The necropsy did not reveal anything we did not know about the animal from the inspections."
There currently is an $11,700 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the cougar killer. And there is one thing the DFG spokesperson is very certain about, "We would appreciate additional reward money. The only way we are going to catch these guys is for someone to want the reward badly enough to turn someone in."
Six contributions comprise the total reward amount. The DFG Cal-TIP hotline—the group Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters—has offered $2500, and the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust have jointly matched that. The City of Calabasas has added another $5000; the Ventura Animal Rescue Team Inc., $1500; and the San Diego Mountain Lion Foundation, $200.
The City of Malibu should make a contribution. Malibu owes no small part of its mystique to the wilderness that surrounds it. The wildlife of the Santa Monica Mountains is to be treasured. The message that we do not tolerate wanton killing of this wildlife is important.
As the number of big cats declines, funding for wildlife research and wildlife crossings is more important than ever. That is why Caltrans, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the NPS are working together to obtain a $10 million grant for a wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon at the 101. Malibuites also should add their voices in support of this proposal that has long been a goal of the wildlife conservation community.
Malibu has always spoken out against development in wilderness areas. This stance must include concern for long-term mountain lion and other wildlife survival. We have encroached on these animals' habitat, we must do all that we can to mitigate the damage we have done.