I would like to address the Proposition 197 mountain lion initiative amendment.
My wife and I are cattle ranchers and longtime Ventura County residents. We graze cows on about 6,000 acres of pasture found directly above Ventura. One benefit of ranching is a relationship with nature and wildlife while working and living in our environment. We observe many changes in wildlife cycles, which include deer, coyotes, rabbits, quail, bobcats, mountain lions and many more animals.
One change that has us concerned is the explosion of the mountain lion population since Proposition 117 (specially protecting lions) took effect in 1990. Proposition 117 took control of the state's largest predator out of the hands of state wildlife biologists, Fish and Game officials and other experts. For the first time in California history, the mountain lion would go unmanaged.
In our area, we believe that the lion population has doubled or better since 1990, judging by increased lion sightings, lion tracks on trails and increased calf losses.
There have always been lions in the Ventura hills; they have never been threatened or endangered. Before 1990, the mountain lion population was in balance with their food sources and nature. However, now unchecked and unmanaged, the lion numbers have grown at an out-of-control rate. Deer signs and deer sightings have decreased by 75%. Rabbits and other small animals are disappearing, too. The very law that specially protects lions is wiping out and endangering other wildlife and forcing the once-proud lion into starvation and desperation.
With the lions' food source disappearing, the older dominant lions force the hungry younger lions to hunt closer to town. We now see lion tracks directly behind Ondalando, Ventura Heights and other housing above Foothill Road. These lions are hunting for pets and livestock. They are becoming less afraid of people as they hunt in incorporated areas.
Experts believe that the mountain lion is coming to town in search of food just like the coyote. Instead of hunting in our trash cans, though, lions will be hunting in our doghouses and maybe even our swing sets. Before someone else gets hurt, please vote yes on Proposition 197.
RICHARD ATMORE JR.
* As an avid open-space user, hiker and equestrian, I urge voters to vote no on Proposition 197.
This proposition will legalize sport and trophy hunting of the mountain lion. Proponents of this proposition state that this is a public safety measure. Yet, existing law allows any mountain lion even perceived as a threat to the public or livestock to be killed.
In addition, proponents neglect to mention that in the last 100 years in all of North America, there have been 13 fatal mountain lion incidents--yet, according to Department of Fish and Game's own records, in California alone in the last 20 years, more than 85 people have died and 700 people have been injured in hunting accidents. Hunting presents a much greater threat to public safety than the mountain lion.