Rancher with permit to shoot marauding mountain lion doesn't plan to kill

MALIBU, Calif. -- A Malibu ranch owner who obtained a rare 10-day permit on Monday to shoot and kill a mountain lion that has been slaughtering animals in the area is not planning to kill or capture the lion, her attorney said.

At a press conference on Thursday, Reid Breitman said his client, Victoria Vaughn-Perling, plans to install a permanent chain link fence on her property and get a dog that “specializes” in protecting livestock from predators.

He described the neighborhood she lives in as a “food court.”

The announcement followed uproar over the permit Vaughn-Perling received from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife this week after finding 10 of her alpacas dead last weekend. A mountain lion in the area known as P-45 is believed responsible for killing the docile, llama-like animals. 

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Mountain lion P-45. 

CBS News

Hundreds of people have complained to wildlife officials since news of the permit began to spread. What was supposed to be a workshop Wednesday night for residents to learn how to protect their livestock was all but hijacked by animal activists who shouted their anger over the possibility that P-45 could be killed. 

“It’s sickening that this animal is going to be executed,” one person wrote on the Facebook page of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Another wrote: “So they’re going to kill a lion for being a lion. Ridiculous and shameful.”

Vaughn-Perling, who had planned to attend the community meeting before she became afraid of getting death threats, told The Associated Press she has tried various strategies to protect her alpacas from P-45 following previous attacks, including adding motion lights and electrified fencing. She installed a roof on her alpaca enclosure after last weekend’s attack, and also said ahead of Thursday’s press conference that she preferred to have P-45 relocated rather than killed.

Her attorney, Breitman, told residents and activists at Wednesday’s community meeting that Vaughn-Perling has asked the Department of Fish and Wildlife to change her permit to allow P-45 to be safely captured and relocated to an animal sanctuary. 

At Thursday’s press conference, she said the point of the permit was never to kill the animal, but to relocate it.

But even if Vaughn-Perling doesn’t plan to kill the lion, others still can.

“If that mountain lion wandered down in to Malibu city, it would be shot in a heart beat,” Vaughn-Perling said on Thursday. 

She said that people are looking at P-45 as an important link in the breeding process.

Wendell Phillips, a neighbor of Vaughn-Perling’s, said he obtained his own permit to kill P-45 in March after some of his alpacas were attacked and that he shot at the cat back then and grazed it. 

Phillips told CBS News: “No one wants to kill an animal, he is an animal I wish we could preserve his life. But I don’t want to keep donating my animals to the food chain.”

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  Wendell Phillips

CBS News

He said P-45 is believed to have killed more than 50 animals in the area in the last year and that the issue became personal for many when one woman’s longtime service animal, a miniature horse named Marco Polo, was killed last month, according to the Associated Press.

“People have to unfortunately come before animals and the call I’m afraid to get is, ‘My kid’s missing’ or ‘My wife’s been attacked,’” Phillips said. “Nobody wants that call.”

Phillips said he’s also in favor of having P-45 moved, “but I keep getting told by various agencies, ‘That’s against our policy.’”

“Well, if it comes to a head between the safety of my family and my animals and your policy, the safety of my family and animals is going to win.” 

Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist for the National Park Service, said neither P-45 nor the 52 other mountain lions studied by the agency in the region since 2002 have ever attacked a human and there’s no evidence that they would. He added that the cat’s killing of 10 alpacas in one night without feeding isn’t aberrant behavior. 

“An animal gets into an enclosed space with a bunch of vulnerable prey animals that aren’t that smart or good at escape and they keep going after them until they aren’t moving around anymore,” Riley said. 

P-45 is just one of three breeding males during the entire 14 years the animals have been studied in the region and it’s important to the species that he stay, Riley said. He and animal rights advocates say livestock can be kept safe if they’re in a roofed enclosure and that there’s no need to interfere with P-45’s behavior. 

Roughly 6,000 mountain lions live in California. The largest group of them in Southern California roams just 40 miles from Los Angeles. 

The National Park Service tracks many of the mountain lions, and P-45, as he’s known, has a GPS collar that logs every move.