By Connor Ramey
|In February 2008, city officials confirmed this paw print was that of a mountain lion. It was spotted on Park Hill near downtown Hollister. View the story on the Park Hill paw print here.|
McCullough's argument stems from the passage of Proposition 117 in 1990. It helped protect the mountain lions from poachers. The protection act prohibited sport hunting of mountain lions and forced the state to spend at least $30 million per year on wildlife habitat protection. Since that time, McCullough believes, as well as the Fish and Game Advisory Committee, that the lion's population has outgrown the state's capacity. The state still uses its population count from 1988 of 4,000 to 6,000 lions, McCullough proclaimed to the board. McCullough indicated to the board that the cougars' population was growing an estimated 500 each year. "They are killing cattle now," he said. "This is going to get worse."
Richard Place, former supervisor and current Fish and Game committee member, brought the issue to the board. The growing lion population is also destroying the dwindling deer numbers, said Place, a Free Lance Editorial Board member. The Fish and Game committee hoped to get support from the board, RCRC and eventually members of the state's Assembly. RCRC is a coalition of 28 small counties from California. The committee wanted to get support from government entities that were "better capable of dealing with these issues," Place said. The board agreed with the request for a new count of the lion, and agreed to write a letter to RCRC and state representatives.
Supervisor Anthony Botelho, who represents the county at the RCRC meetings, said he would present the idea to the committee. The committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday, after Pinnacle press time. "It is a problem that is growing and growing every year," Botelho said. Supervisor Robert Rivas agreed the "difficult issue" was important to examine. "For a bill to get traction, it will be necessary to get awareness to the state Assembly," said Rivas, who recommended that the board get in contact with Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville. The board will write and review a letter to RCRC and other state representatives in an upcoming board meeting. In 2009, county ranchers and agriculture officials gained the support of the board after they complained of a "growing threat" to people in the area. Paul Matulich, agricultural commissioner at the time, said there was an increase of incidence where the cougar attacked livestock in the area.