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Mountain Lion Killing: New Details Released

Santa Monica Police say they're ready to meet with local wildlife experts and animal rights groups after public outcry that the downtown shooting could have been avoided.

More than two weeks after , police said they will consult wildlife experts and animal rights groups to develop a new response plan.

The 95-pound animal was killed May 22 in a courtyard just a block from the Third Street Promenade after the Santa Monica Police Department and the state Department of Fish and Game attempted to sedate it using a tranquilizer dart gun.

The attempt was unsuccessful and the killing irked animal lovers across Los Angeles. They faulted the police department for not taking a different approach to subdue the lion. , a local veterinarian asked that she and others with experience handling big cats be called on to assist with future capture and release efforts.

In a press release issued by the police department late Thursday evening to announce plans for a June meeting with groups such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, police Sgt. Richard Lewis said that until the May 22 encounter, there had not been a report of a mountain lion in city limits for at least 30 years.

"The Santa Monica Police Department is formulating a unique approach to address the concerns associated with this unusual occurrence," he said in the statement.

The police department and Fish and Game have previously defended the shooting, insisting it was in the best interest of public safety. In the press release, Lewis outlined authorities' response over the course of a 3 ½-hour period the morning of May 22:

The Department of Fish and Game attempted to use a tranquilizer dart to sedate the mountain lion. The lion immediately became aggressive and looked for an avenue of escape. It charged and shattered one of the glass doors at the courtyard's entryway.  

The lion leaped effortlessly over large planters within the courtyard as it searched for an avenue of escape. Firefighters sprayed water at the glass doors of the courtyard's entryway in an attempt to render them opaque to deter the lion from trying to run through or jump over the approximately eight foot tall doors. The mountain lion was not hit with water from the fire hoses.

Pepper balls (Oleoresin Capsicum), the size of paintballs, were fired into the ground in an attempt to prevent the mountain lion from approaching the front of the courtyard and attempting to escape.

In an email this week to Patch, Oak Park resident Cristina Cooper suggested the mountain lion could have been lured into a crate with food or lavender or peppermint herbs or netted before it was tranquilized.

"Instead of being so quick to use deadly force on wild animals that stray into our neighborhoods and cities, we could all use the education to realize there are other ways to handle these animals," she wrote.

A National Parks Service biologist who studies the population in the Santa Monica Mountains told Patch that he has successfully captured and released a mountain lion from the Pacific Palisades using a stealthier tranquilizer blow dart.

Invited to the June meeting are the California Department of Fish and Game, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, In Defense of Animals, the Pacific Institute for Restoration Ecology California State University Channel Islands and local veterinarians.

The goal is to "explore viable alternatives in an effort to prepare for any future incidents," according to the police press release.

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Denise June 08, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Did anyone consider this to be someone's pet?? It seems to me there should have been smarter measures of capture and release not shoot and kill. It make me sad that we take the measure of fear instead of smart and correct thinking to not kill and animal who doesn't know any better.
Maria Fotopoulos June 08, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Happy to see positive movement on this. Thanks for the follow-up report!
Tim June 08, 2012 at 03:50 PM
CORRECTED VERSION OF MY COMMENT Yes, its to bad the police had to kill such a good critter... However, it seems as though the authorities did all they could to save this kitty with the tools they had available at the time of the incident. It is unfortunate that whoever shot the cat with a the tranquilizer didn't do it correctly which led to an aggressive encounter. The police put the safety of the community first- which is the correct response. What was that cat doing in so close to the promenade; I would keep my children close at hand!
Denise June 08, 2012 at 04:26 PM
We will never know what actually happened here. The police need to take the responsibility that all life has meaning. The fact is this cat was mishandled. The police didn't do all they could. Police automatically pull out there guns instead of using their brains and bring someone out who knows how to handle a big cat. These cats are actually shy creatures and they really want to stay away from the excitement of the city. They are only looking to survive in a world that we mistakenly this is ours. Humans the species with complexed minds are the stupidest animals on the planet. We are slowly killing this planet one species at a time. The wildlife food supply and geography is diminishing and so what we do is take the easy way out and use guns to "get rid" of animals.This will continue to happen unless we put harder restrictions on building on land that actually belongs to these predators and other animals. This was a beautiful young healthy female mountain lion. Shame on you SM Police!
Cristina June 08, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I have been tracking the statements made by SMPD and DGF since this incident occurred and I have to say I am extremely skeptical on what is actually the truth, especially after this press release. The stories keep changing... For example, this was taken from a previous news article: "Sergeant Almada tells us that Fish and Game agents were the ones to "employ the tranquilizer dart." But when that proved "ineffective," he says the Santa Monica PD shot the mountain lion with pepper balls and the L.A. County Fire Department sprayed it with their high-pressure hoses." There were multiple news sources clearly stating the lion was shot at with pepper balls and water hoses. They clearly never stated they were shot at the ground or at the windows and that the lion was never hit. I am highly, highly skeptical of what actually happened. They need to get their stories straight and defending themselves isn't really necessary at this point as they have agreed a new wildlife rescue program needs to be implemented.
Wendy Frederick June 08, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Very well put! I couldn't have said it better! YES, there should be laws outlawing the constant developing of lands that take away the homes of these beautiful creatures! And, you are correct! Humans think they OWN THIS WORLD. They don't! Understand that! We SHARE this world, and humans need to understand it! Again, FIsh and Game, and the SM Police need more training on handling wildlife. This kind of incident won't be the last. Training needs to happen as soon as possible!
Claudia Schafer June 09, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Yep - we are using up this planet as if we have another one to go to. And unfortunately we Americans are using up a greatly disproportionate percentage compared to the rest of the world. As for the City of SM and any official press release regarding this incident - of course it's a load of Bandini. Why tell the truth when you have spin doctors on the city payroll? However - it is good to see at least the beginnings of a dialog between the City and Animal Rights groups. God bless the local vet who began this by offering her services - for free.
Craig McCoy June 09, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Anyone who thinks the police over reacted are wrong. This cat had to go along way through a residential area to get where it ended up. Rabies perhaps? I suppose if a police officer or a fire fighter was attacked or a child at the daycare across the street killed that would be okay as long as the kitty survived. Ask the woman on the bike who had her head bitten by one of these cats several years ago what she thinks. Time to grow up and get a life people.
Wendy Frederick June 11, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Hardly believe anyone would have been attacked - it was 6:00 in morning. No one was out at the time. Where was this woman who was bitten on her head by a mountain lion? Please tell me when this happened? I'd love to hear the details! Grow up? What's that got to do with anger towards the unjustified killing of a wild animal? Get a life? Grow up and get a life has nothing to do with how people feel towards this incident. Do you really believe it had rabies? Get Real! And, no one was attacked. Still think it was justified to kill the animal?

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