The state Fish and Game Commission held its first meeting Wednesday since its president shot and killed a mountain lion. It’s illegal to hunt the big cats in California, but commissioner Dan Richards bagged one on a legal hunting trip in Idaho. Richards has rebuffed critics’ calls for him to resign.
They believe Richards showed poor judgment when he accepted an invitation to hunt and kill the mountain lion back in January. Pictures of the commissioner posing with the slain cat went viral earlier this month.
The businessman from San Bernardino County further antagonized opponents by saying he not only shot the lion, he feasted on it too. Cougar hunting’s been illegal in California for 20 years.
Renee Reston, who describes herself as a “concerned taxpayer” was among a handful of people who turned up at a commission hearing in Riverside to urge Richards' resignation
“The overwhelming majority of Californians protected mountain lions and Mr. Richards was appointed to protect them,” said Reston.
“His lack of judgment in appearing in a magazine posing with the carcass of the animal that his employer's entrusted to protect is a slap in our face. This issue is about your judgment.”
But dozens of supporters far outnumbered those who called for the commissioner’s ouster.
“Critics have brought into question the abilities of a commissioner to make sound natural resource decisions based on the fact that he hunted legally outside of California,” says Bill Gaines. He’s president of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance.
“That will have no bearing on a commissioner’s ability to make sound decisions in the best interest of California natural resources, and we urge the Legislature to focus on other issues besides the removal of a commissioner for no legitimate reason,” says Gaines.
At least 40 Democratic state lawmakers and a coalition of environmental and animal rights groups also want Richards to step aside. He’s told them to “mind their own business.” His term on the game commission ends in January.