15 pounds of feline terror

February 26, 2009

Thinking it a heinous threat against their 9 mms, Santa Paula police shot and killed a baby lion not unlike this one.

Thinking it a heinous threat against their 9 mms, Santa Paula police shot and killed a baby lion not unlike this one.

It always irks me, for the sake of reportage, when gross miscalculations occur and find their way into official print. Gaffes happen all the time, and human error is inevitable: an estimate off, a wrongly-spelled name here, an incorrect age there by a year or two. Hell, having worked as an obituary writer at one point, we had disputes over things like survivors and cemeteries.

But never, of course, over whether the deceased was, in fact, dead or not.

That’s why I wonder how officials from the Santa Paula Police Department could report originally that a mountain lion they shot dead in a residential area, an “imminent threat” at a fully-grown, husky 35 pounds, was less than half the weight.

I’m sure when a big cat is staring you down, five pounds can seem like 500 to the uninitiated eye. But this cat, just 15 pounds at only six weeks old — a kitten by most standards — was blown away without hesitation. But the difference in the cat’s weight, now confirmed at a wee 15 pounds, is like night and day.

Having just printed this week in our paper an expose on local attitudes towards firearms, it makes me wonder if the SPPD are putting the typical spin on justifying another law-sanctioned shooting.

I found some opinions on the putdown, featured yesterday on our local daily paper’s Web site.

Bad judgment.. Ok, so now what? Fire the officers? Ok, so now we have two potentially good cops off the street AND we have the expense of retraining new officers. Sensitivity training for them? Maybe, but what are the chances this will happen again to the same two officers? And what would the cost be of training police how to recognize a real wildlife threat? Does it suck that a precious little “kitty” got shot and killed? Yeah, I guess, but it happens every day in the roadways, at the pound, and so on. All I’m saying is that it’s a lesson in how society thinks when there are so many people that are so disturbed by a story like this one, and it makes me wonder how much better the world would be if people put this much passion and thought into solving REAL problems like homelessness, hunger, poverty, and so on…

And another:

You guys are unreal. Have you ever been face to face with a mountain lion? Regardless of size, they aren’t like your house cat. They don’t judge you on size, you are still prey for the most part.

In case you are wondering, yes, I have been face to face with one, in my back yard. It was terrifying, and he wasn’t much bigger then this one (the finding was 21 lbs at the necropsy(sp?)) but not any older. I can vividly remember that damn cat, even though it’s been over 20 years. That “cat” didn’t seem worried when fish and wildlife showed up, and in fact hissed and growled relentlessly when they tried to approach him. They tried to “shoo” him away, they tried offering it food, but nothing worked. They did fire the tranquilizer gun first, but it had such little affect they ended up shooting it. This was just “a little kitty” too, but it was the scariest time I ever had in my yard. They are aggressive, territorial and will attack without warning, and sometimes without provocation.

Once you folks can say you have been in the shoes of someone staring down at a vicious, dangerous animal (regardless of size) you have no right to critize these officers or anyone else.

Shoot, you people go ape-shyt over a dog biting someone, and because it may be of a particular breed, they should all immediately be put down. Ok, sure, but lets have mountain lions roaming our streets? How skewed is that thinking?

Skewed or not, what other options can we take when wild animals wander into the neighborhood? Could the police have reacted differently? Or are their guns just extensions of their … er, badges?

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