A fatally shot young mountain lion in Northern California that was part of a research project has set off angry criticism and left a family defending its actions.
The mountain lion killed a goat before the animal was trapped in Napa last week, fitted with an electronic collar and released back as part of an Audubon Canyon Ranch research project. the Press Democrat reported Tuesday.
The animal then returned to the area and Alejandra Calderon said her husband killed the cougar Saturday as it preyed on their sheep at their Napa-area home for the third night in a row after calling state Fish and Wildlife officials several times but receiving no answer, she said.
She said they feared for the safety of their three young children. "As a parent, I hope that they understand how scared we were in the moment," she added.
State Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Lt. Jim Jones confirmed the family reached out several times to the agency. He said the family didn't know to ask for a permit to kill the animal, but they did not need one if their livestock was in imminent danger.
It's the third time in the 2 1/2-year history of the Living with Lions program that one of the study cats has been killed after preying on domestic livestock, with each occasion giving rise to increasingly intense public reaction. Calderon has received hateful social media comments and gawkers have parked on the family's road to record video, the newspaper reported.
Biologist Quinton Martins, who runs the research program, said the mountain lion was believed to be the offspring of a female recently recaptured and outfitted with a new collar battery just up the road from where the feline was killed.
Martins and other conservationists say it's the responsibility of those with domestic animals to keep them properly enclosed and secured, given the importance of preserving dwindling numbers of cougars, the apex predator in the region.
"There isn't anybody who can give me a single good reason about how the killing of that cat does anything good," Martins said.
For more information on the Living with Lions Project, visit egret.org.