Game Panel Orders Delay in Hunting of Wild Lions

Times Staff Writer

Game hunters will have to wait at least another year before opening fire on California mountain lions, the state Fish and Game Commission ruled Friday.

The commission decided to postpone open season on the animals until state officials can study their breeding, eating and living habits.

The 3-2 vote, confirming a preliminary decision April 5 in San Diego, came after commissioners, meeting in Long Beach, heard testimony from several sources, including hunters, sportsmen, conservationists and actor Robert Redford.

In a letter to the commission, Redford--who played a big-game hunter in the Academy award-winning motion picture “Out of Africa"--expressed opposition to the hunting of lions, a practice he termed “greatly offensive to many.”


Subject of Debate

Vigorous debate on the future of the state’s mountain lion population has continued since Jan. 1, when a 14-year moratorium on hunting the animals expired. Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed a bill that would have extended it.

Hunters maintain that mountain lions--now believed to number about 4,800 in California--threaten the state’s deer population on which they prey and should therefore be subject to management through sport hunting. Animal lovers and conservationists have argued that the lions should be protected.

Feelings on the matter became particularly strong last month after a lion attacked and seriously injured a 5-year-old girl in a wilderness park in Orange County.


Friday’s action by the commission was opposed by commission President Brian J. Kahn and by Vice President Abel C. Galletti, who moved instead to allow a limited hunt this year in the North Kings area of eastern Fresno County, where sportsmen say the deer population is especially threatened by mountain lions.

The motion died for lack of a second.