Mountain Lion ‘P-56’ Becomes the First to Be Killed Under California’s ‘3-Strike’ Law

mountain lion
P-56, a young male mountain lion that roams the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California.Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service/AP/Shutterstock

According to the National Park Service, state officials recently permitted the killing of a 4- to 5-year-old male mountain lion under California’s depredation law. This incident is the first time that a radio-collared mountain lion has been killed under a depredation permit from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) in the Santa Monica Mountains.

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The reason for the permitted killing of the mountain lion, named P-56, was multiple incidents involving a nearby landowner’s livestock. The landowner took many precautions, including penning any remaining livestock close to the property, hot-wire fencing, utilizing trained guard dogs, as well as motion-activated lights and auditory hazing. Over a span of two years, the property owner lost 12 animals from nine separate depredation incidents.

Project lead field biologist Jeff Sikich explained the impact of the loss, given the ongoing national park study over the last two decades on mountain lions in the western Santa Monica Mountains (south of U.S. Highway 101 near Camarillo).

“The loss of a breeding male is a concern for the study, especially when the population is already very small,” Sikich stated in a press release. “There are always animals out there that are not being tracked. Currently, there is only one adult male in the Santa Monica Mountains that we are tracking and that is P-63.”

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Hunting mountain lions in California has been banned since 1990, and they have been designated by the state as a “specially protected mammal.” But, if a particular animal has repeated incidents of harming livestock or pets, then a property owner can request a depredation permit from CDFW, and the animal in question will be up for investigation and possibly killed.

In December of 2017, eight months after P-56 was first identified and tagged with a GPS tracker, the CDFW put its “three-strike” policy into place. This allowed property owners to file for a lethal permit only after non-lethal deterrents had been tried and failed. In this case, the property owner’s claims met the criteria over multiple years, though P-56 continued to persist, and sadly, had to be put down.

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