PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — The Santa Monica Police Department has committed to new procedures for capturing wildlife, including developing a notification system of local experts and providing training to personnel, following the killing of a mountain lion in May.

On June 25 the Santa Monica Police Department convened a focus group with representatives from City Hall, the California Department of Fish and Game, the National Park Service, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and local veterinarians to discuss safer solutions in case another wild animal finds its way into the city.

The focus group discussed the importance of public safety and the risks associated with wild animal capture, and formulated a plan to prevent the killing of wildlife when faced with such a difficult situation.

The Police Department committed to develop a system to notify local wildlife experts and provide training to personnel in order to ensure an efficient wildlife capture process. The Police Department also agreed to take preventative measures such as obtaining better equipment and working on finding long-term solutions to prevent wildlife from entering urban neighborhoods.

On the morning of May 22, a 95-pound, 3-year-old mountain lion wandered into an urban area just a block from the popular Third Street Promenade. Santa Monica police officers were notified and set up a perimeter. After a failed attempt to tranquilize the lion, officers opened fire, killing the cougar. Many attendees of the focus group felt very strongly about the prevention of such incidents, not only to protect public safety but also to protect wildlife.

Communications director of In Defense of Animals, Jack Carone, attended the meeting and is optimistic that the ideas discussed will be carried out.

“I think that the exchange of ideas was good and I hope that the suggestions and offers of help and assistance are all actually followed up,” Carone said.

However, Carone is concerned about the many regulations that may get in the way of these new procedures.

Dr. Jennifer Conrad, founder of the Paw Project, also attended the meeting and expressed her willingness to participate and help with tranquilization in the future.

“But the law is that the Department of Fish and Game is the only one that is allowed to tranquilize a mountain lion,” Carone said. “There are just a lot of technicalities, but hopefully that can all be worked out and agencies can take advantage of local experts.”

One of the long-term solutions discussed was the creation of a wildlife crossing near the U.S. Route 101. Because of urban encroachment, mountain lions are being squeezed out of their habitat but cannot safely pass to other forest areas or areas of undeveloped land without directly crossing freeways or roaming through neighborhoods.

The creation of a crossing in the form of a tunnel under the freeway through which wild animals could cross to get from one area to another would decrease the likelihood of wildlife entering urban and heavily populated areas.

“It is safe for wildlife to cross and it is safe for people as well,” Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles said. “It expands their habitat; they don’t want to be in urban areas, they want to be in their natural habitat.”

The focus group attendees hope that this project will receive enough funding and help solve the problem at hand.

“The young males are being pushed out and need to find territory,” Carone said. “This would give them a safe way to go and I hope that my organization can promote this.”

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