Living With Wildlife
Big wins for wildlife in Sacramento
Californians truly appreciate the wildlife we have in this state, and that was reflected in Sacramento this past year with several pro-wildlife laws being passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. Here is a brief run-down of the new laws:
SB 132. Mountain Lions
Mountain lions are already protected in this state, but up until now, Fish & Wildlife officials would kill mountain lions, often times unnecessarily, because they perceived them to be a threat to humans. Late in 2012, Fish & Wildlife officials shot and killed two four-month-old orphaned, malnourished cubs near Half Moon Bay. The outcry from the public was huge, and because of this incident, and others, SB 132 was introduced. This bill requires non-lethal procedures be used in taking any mountain lion that is not considered an imminent threat to public health or safety. Wildlife rehabilitators and zookeepers will also be able to assist in these situations, as oftentimes they know more about dealing with lions than F&W officials.
AB 1213. Bobcat Protection Act.
It is now against the law to trap bobcats in the area surrounding Joshua Tree National Park, as well as adjacent to the boundaries of each national or state park, national monument or wildlife refuge. Bobcats are protected when in these parks, so, knowing no boundaries, they are quite vulnerable when they leave. Many residents of Joshua Tree were horrified to learn that trappers were taking bobcats in huge numbers and selling their pelts to Russia and China where they are made into slippers! Bobcat pelt prices soared from $70 to $700 each. The price of tags is going way up this year - they were previously $3. Residents were also surprised to learn that it was perfectly legal for trappers to set traps on private property without the landowner's knowledge or consent. This too will change, as now trappers must get written permission from a landowner before setting a trap.
Hats off to a dedicated group of landowners in the Joshua Tree area who banded together, went to the Legislature, worked on this bill all year and got it passed. It brings to mind Margaret Mead's famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
AB 711. Hunting: Nonlead Ammunition.
This is a big deal! California becomes the first state in the union to ban lead ammunition. Lead isn't just bad for wildlife, but for humans and the environment as well. This is a complex bill and the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife has until July 1, 2019, to fully implement it, but it has instructions to start implementing it right away. This bill came about mostly because the endangered California Condors, which we have spent years trying to save, can get lead poisoning from scavenging on game shot with lead, as do other animals, as well. This leads to a long and painful death.
AB 789. Trapping.
This bill now makes it unlawful to use some of the most cruel forms of traps. Use of steel-jawed leghold traps, traps with saw-toothed or spiked jaws, body-gripping traps, and a few others that are equally barbaric, are now illegal. In addition, trappers must visit traps at least once daily and remove the animals. It is now illegal to kill any trapped animal by drowning, chest crushing, or injection of chemicals other than those used to euthanize. This bill is a big step in the right direction, but I long for the day when no animals are trapped in California.
These laws became effective Jan. 1. It's important to have laws that protect wildlife. I'm wondering what is on the agenda for 2014.
Sharon Ponsford is a a longtime volunteer with Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue and a former board member of the California Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators. She lives in Glen Ellen. If you have questions or would like to ask her about our local wildlife, please email her at email@example.com.