Killer Mountain Lion Dodges Death Row

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A marauding California mountain lion has clawed his way back from almost certain execution thanks to a kind-hearted alpaca owner.

Los Angeles wildlife authorities suspect that the big cat, known as P-45, killed 11 alpacas and injured others in an attack near Mulholland Highway in Malibu in November. The beast ate only one of the animals.

“It seems to enjoy killing things,” noted alpaca owner Victoria Vaughn-Perling.

Neighbors believe P-45 may be responsible for the death of up to 65 pets and other domesticated animals in the area over the past year.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service had granted her permission to kill the 5-year-old mountain lion. 

But word of the permit angered environmentalists and triggered heartfelt appeals from animal lovers across the nation.

“Eliminating P-45 does not solve the problem, especially given there are at least four mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains that have killed livestock over the past year,” said Kate Kuykendall, acting deputy superintendent for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “Nor is P-45’s behavior abnormal or aberrant in any way. If animals are stuck in an unsecured pen, a mountain lion’s natural response can be to prey upon all available animals.”

Vaughn-Perling has now changed her mind about killing P-45 and agreed to let wildlife officials capture the male animal. They will decide whether to relocate the cat to a more remote location in the Santa Monica mountains or place him in captivity, her attorney told the Los Angeles Times.

Relocation may not be successful, however, because P-45 could seek out his old territory especially now that he “knows where the restaurant is,” said one of Vaughn-Perling’s neighbors.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl issued a statement thanking Vaughn-Perling for her decision to “spare the life of one of the precious few mountain lions left in our Santa Monica Mountains.”

But the clash between area residents and the cats won’t likely disappear any time soon.

Up to 15 mountain lions live in the Santa Monica Mountains between Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean, according to a federal study.

The state Wildlife Commission approved a $7.1 million expenditure last month to purchase land in the area to provide a safe habitat for the animals. Some environmental activists are also hoping to raise funds for a bridge that wildlife could use to travel safely over the highway.

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