Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Defensive Mountain Lion Shooting by Eldorado County Deputy with Colt AR15 Style Rifle

From El Dorado County Sheriff's Office facebook, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

Have call in to Sgt. Robert St. Tierre at SO have recording, notes. 

In the afternoon of 11 January, 2021, a family with two small children and two small dogs was walking along the El Dorado bike trail. They were just outside of Placerville, California, on the east side. The trail there is paved. The weather was very good for walking, the sky was clear and the temperature was about 55 degrees F, with a light breeze. The two small children were in a stroller.

The couple noticed a mountain lion behind them on the trail. They shouted at the lion. It continued to follow them for several minutes. The family called 911. A veteran deputy from the El Dorado Sheriff's department made good time reaching their location. It was seven minutes from the 911 call to his arrival on the scene, about 200 yards east of where the El Dorado trail crosses the Smith Flat School Road, not far outside the city limits.

Image from National Park Service, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

El Dorado Sheriff's department requires every patrol vehicle to have a Remington 870 shotgun and a dedicated less-lethal beanbag shotgun in the vehicle. If patrol officers take and pass a rifle course, they may be issued a Colt AR15 style rifle in .223 caliber. The issue ammunition is a 55 grain Hornaday softtip TAP. Almost all of the patrol deputies have rifles; most of them have purchased their own optical sights to put on the rifles, which are issued with iron sights as standard.

When the deputy arrived at the young family's location, he exited the vehicle with a Colt AR15 style rifle in .223 caliber.

The mountain lion was not deterred, even after the deputy arrived. The deputy tried shouting at the animal. It stopped pacing back and forth, and started advancing toward the deputy. 

The deputy fired a warning round in front of the big cat. It continued to advance. 

The deputy fired at the front of the cat, below the head. At the the shot, the cat started charging the deputy. The first shot was from 25-30 yards out.

The deputy continued to fire, hitting the cat three or four times out of four or five shots.  The last shot was into the side of the cat as it turned. It dropped to the ground about 10 yards from the deputy.

California Fish and Wildlife took possession of the cat from the Sheriff's Office. F&W will have a necropsy of the cat performed to see if it had rabies or any other problems. The mountain lion was a full grown, adult female. 

California banned hunting of mountain lions with proposition 117 in 1990. 

Mountain lions may be killed in self defense, or depredation permits can be obtained to kill lions which are killing livestock.  In 2016, 218 depredation permits were issued and 120 problem mountain lions were killed, according to

When mountain lions were routinely hunted with dogs, it was common for even a small dog to tree a mountain lion. 

Today, thirty years after regular lion hunting was banned in California, mountain lions routinely kill and eat pet dogs

In the comments at the Eldorado Sherrif's Office facebook page, several commenters revealed they had close encounters with mountain lions. From the comments: 

My kids were also followed about six months ago in this same area. Called the sheriff's and they did nothing. Had to wait for 3 weeks till animals control to call back. Unfortunately something bad has to happen before action.
We hike all the time and everywhere, but never without at the very least pepper spray and a knife or two. When we go deeper into the mountains we always bring a side arm. We got stalked once and it is an eerie scary feeling even when you are armed.
I'm glad no one was hurt. This is not typical lion behavior (although once I had one on the roof of my house staring down at me at 5 am!). They normally stay hidden or run off. 
I was followed by a cat while hiking back to my car after a day of prospecting a few years ago. I walked backwards away from it and made sure to make lots of sound while waving my shovel. I think it got bored of watching a lunatic so it walked away into the forest.
I also had a gun on me, luckily i did not need to use it.

Animal populations must be managed by humans, or they fluctuate wildly. There is no inherent "balance" in nature. Predator populations increase until they run out of food or habitat. 

Human occupied areas offer plenty of food for predators in the form of garbage, garages, pet food, pets, and if pressed, people themselves.

The most effective, humane, and efficient way to manage predator populations is with regulated hunting. Without management of large predator populations, they increase until humans are put at risk.

©2021 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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