California rancher cleared to shoot mountain lion preying on his herds

Wendell Phillips.

CBS News

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- In Southern California, it is open season on a beast that may have finally bitten off more than it can chew.

In the mountains above the beaches of Malibu, a neighborly dispute is underway -- between man and mountain lion. 

“Last night he went to the petting zoo and killed a sheep and pygmy goat and ate the goat,” said Wendell Phillips. 

Wendell Phillips with some of his alpacas.  CBS News

Like many here in the Santa Monica mountains, Phillips keeps exotic animals on his ranch. Five of his alpacas were recently killed by a predator known as P-45. He struck again next door, killing 10 alpacas, a goat and a sheep.

Phillips now has a state permit to shoot the mountain lion.

“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,” Phillips said. 

Roughly 6,000 mountain lions live in California, and the largest group in Southern California roams just 40 miles from Los Angeles.  Many are tracked by the National Park Service. P-45, as he’s known, has a GPS collar that logs every move.

Mountain lion known as P-45.  CBS News

“We know he was there at the time. So it’s pretty darn likely that it was him,” said Seth Riley.

Riley is a wildlife ecologist studying the mountain lions in the area, where more than 50 ranch animals have been killed in the last year. In Riley’s eyes the solution is pretty simple. 

“...which is to protect livestock,” he said. “What that means is bringing them in to full enclosures at night, they wont be vulnerable.”

Phillips said hunting the lion is another option. But Riley said it’s not a solution. 

“Well definitely not in the long run...because there are other mountain lions out there,” he said. 

Phillips has one week left to find P-45 before his permit runs out

So, for now, the hunter will remain the hunted.