Bradley, Governor Skirmish on ‘Cougar Crisis’

Times Staff Writer

A new gubernatorial campaign skirmish erupted Thursday on the most unlikely of fronts.

The issue was the mountain lion attacks in which two children have been mauled at an Orange County park. The suggestion from the camp of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was that inaction by Republican Gov. George Deukmejian has contributed to the state’s “cougar crisis.”

In a letter to the governor released Thursday, Bradley’s top City Hall deputy, Tom Houston, referred to the maulings of two children, one in March and another this month. The two incidents, both in Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park in Orange County, left a 5-year-old girl partially paralyzed and blind in one eye and a 6-year-old boy badly cut.

The attacks, Houston wrote, “point out the damaging fact that you as governor . . . have not addressed our wildlife program in an effective manner. . . . You have not acted.”


The implication that Houston was blaming Deukmejian for mountain lion attacks on children was shrugged off as absurd by some Deukmejian aides traveling with the governor in Los Angeles Thursday.

Officially, Deukmejian spokesman Kevin Brett said the state Department of Fish and Game “moved swiftly to find the offending lion” and he added that the department is currently conducting a study to find out more about the numbers and locations of the big cats that have been attacking humans. The park where the children were attacked will remain closed for about two months.

Houston, who aides said was out of town Thursday, was not available to comment on his letter. Fred MacFarlane, Bradley City Hall press aide, said, “I don’t know that he (Houston) is laying blame solely at the governor’s feet. But the cougar attacks might not have happened if the cougars had been removed from the area.

“I think he’s blaming the state for inaction. Since the governor is the chief administrator of the state, he could bear some responsibility for that inaction.”