California Department of Fish and Game wardens fatally shot a pair of young mountain lions in Half Moon Bay on Saturday which were roaming around a downtown backyard, raising some criticism from some neighbors and a Mountain Lion foundation.
The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office responded to a report about the lions Friday in the 800 block of Correas Avenue and called in the wardens, who tried to shoo the cubs east toward Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park.
Two neighbors told NBC Bay Area on Tuesday that they wished the mountain lions could have been spared death.
Anna Enea said she and her 21-year-old son watched the mountain lions in their backyard on Friday night: the young lions were huddled around a backyard statue of the Virgin Mary. Enea's first thought was that the cubs had been separated from their mother. Her son took several photos and videos of the rare sight. "I wonder why they had to shoot them," Enea said.
Another neighbor, Suzanne Bruce, was also upset when she found out what happened. She had hoped the wardens could have trapped the lions and taken them back to the wild.
But when the lions re-appeared on Saturday, Fish and Game spokeswoman Janice Mackey told NBC Bay Area that the wardens shot them out of concern for public safety. That's because the young lions seemed to be behaving abnormally - they had blank stares and didn't seem to be scared of people.
Trying to tranquilize the animals would have been risky, Mackey said, because the wardens would have needed to sedate them using a needle on a "poke stick." If that didn't work, she said the cats could have escaped and injured someone nearby. She said killing the lions was a last resort.
Tim Dunbar, executive director of the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation, criticized the wardens' decision to kill the lions, according to the San Mateo County Times.
"I think Fish and Game was a little too trigger-happy," Dunbar told the newspaper.
The department has ordered a necropsy on the lions to discern any causes for their unusual behavior.