April 14, 2009 7:01 AM
The News-Press headline on April 6 said it all: “Where are the cats? Animal expert fears the worst for pair of mountain lion cubs.”
It sums up how there is something wrong with the way the state handles wildlife in need of care. Californians can’t trust the state Department of Fish and Game — which often sees bullets and killing as the way to handle a situation.
How many times, for example, has the department either condoned or participated in the killing of bears that wander into populated areas or a rural back yard? Too often.
You can’t trust the Department of Fish and Game. The case involving to two mountain lion cubs captured in a Solvang neighborhood provides another example of the lack of confidence in this state agency.
Allowing the department to take such animals could amount to a death sentence. Luckily, that didn’t happen this time around, perhaps because of the news media and other attention surrounding the cubs. The cubs ended up in a wildlife center outside San Diego.
It shouldn’t require news coverage to prompt state officials to take the proper action to protect wildlife.
Here’s what happened: The nonprofit Animal Rescue Team tranquilized the female cubs on Aarhus Drive in Solvang because they basically appeared to be in danger of dying. They certainly appeared to be suffering. Their mother was nowhere in sight.
Earlier, Fish and Game wardens refused to act.
Julia Di Sieno, executive director of Animal Rescue Team, explained: “They were emaciated and in need of medical attention. One of them was the size of my house cat.”
The group took the two cubs to its Santa Ynez facility where a veterinarian cared for them. Fish and Game officials showed up and put the animals in the back of a flat-bed pick-up truck. They promised to take the cubs to the zoo for safekeeping. That didn’t happen.
No one knew what had happened to the animals.
In light of how the department has handled mountain lions in the past, the public was right to be worried. There was a real danger that the wardens could have shot the cubs and tossed their bodies in the brush. Wildlife officials certainly have done this with other animals.
Game wardens would only say “that’s confidential” when asked about the cubs. The News-Press later independently determined the cubs were at the Fund for Animal Wildlife Center outside San Diego.
We suggest an investigation into the wardens who refused to act, with stiff punishment to follow.