News Hound’s Dumb Legislation Award for 2007

It should come as no surprise that one of the more ridiculous pieces of legislation I’ve discovered this year comes by way of the California General Assembly. Lawmakers in the state that banned mountain lion hunting in 1990 and where more cougar attacks and threats to humans occur than any other state are voting on a bill to (ta-da!) fund the posting of warning signs in some state-owned mountain lion habitat.

Man, that’s showing some real political courage, isn’t it?

The California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee tweaked a bill yesterday designed to require the state to post warnings and information when purchasing new park or recreational property that is considered mountain lion habitat.Cougar03

The California Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 61-7 in May.

Yesterday’s Senate action altered the bill to apply only to newly accessible public property where mountain lions may pose a threat to public health and safety.

California paid bounties on mountain lions until 1963, when the predator became categorized as a big game animal. In 1972, a lion-hunting moratorium was enacted through legislative action.

A voter ballot initiative--passing by a 52 to 48 margin in 1990--declared lions as “specially protected,” prohibiting hunting, trapping and poisoning. However, the measure allows state agents to hunt and kill cougars determined to be a threat to humans and livestock.

The most ludicrous part of the cougar’s “specially protected” status today is that it allows killing the predator, but totally eliminates hunters and sportsmen (as well as sensible professional wildlife management) from the equation.

Data available from the California Department of Fish and Game reveals that in 2005, 222 depredation permits were issued in the Golden State, with as many as 328 issued in 1994—coincidentally, the same year as two fatal attacks on humans. In 2000, a record high 148 lions were killed by authorized agents—more animals than are taken legally by licensed hunters in most other Western states annually.

Even with the targeted taking of specific problem animals, the mountain lion population is estimated to be at an all-time high of around 6,000 in California—three times what it was in the 1970s.

In 1996, opponents to the hunting ban mounted an unsuccessful ballot initiative, and subsequent attempts by lawmakers to pass legislation to allow cougar hunting have also failed.

But the 2007 General Assembly, in its infinite wisdom, has determined that California doesn’t need lion hunting and wildlife management based upon science and necessity.

Just post warning signs.