Refusing to make what one member said would have been a "hasty decision," the California Fish and Game Commission on Friday delayed until April any move toward establishing a hunting season on mountain lions.
The commission listened to dozens of speakers for nearly three hours before putting off action on the highly controversial and emotional issue. It had been expected to make a tentative decision Friday on whether to end a 15-year ban on sport hunting of the big cats.
"This way we'll keep all our options open," said Commissioner Robert Bryant of Yuba City. "We'll look over all this testimony and then come back and make our final decision."
The commission meeting, in the Redding City Council chambers, attracted an overflow crowd of about 150 that spilled out onto the sidewalk and street, tying up traffic and confounding local police.
Commission President Albert Taucher of Long Beach said he wanted to learn more about criticism of the department's biological studies by groups opposing the department's proposal for a limited hunting season.
Taucher was referring to a survey of biologists by the Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation. Sharon Negri, president of the foundation, said the survey cast doubt on the accuracy of the state's estimate that there are at least 5,100 lions in California.