Question: I live on a farm in the hills. If I witness a mountain lion chasing and devouring one of my goats in my herd, can I shoot and kill it on the spot? How about if I am walking on a remote trail with my dog and a mountain lion attacks my dog, can I shoot it to defend my dog?
Answer: Mountain lions are specially protected in California (Fish and Game Code, section 4800). In 1990, California voters passed Proposition 117, an initiative that made it illegal to kill mountain lions except under very limited circumstances. However, if you witness one attacking your livestock or pets, or if the animal threatens you directly and poses an immediate physical threat, you have the right to defend yourself and your animals.
According to Fish and Game Code, section 4807(a): “Any mountain lion that is encountered while in the act of pursuing, inflicting injury to, or killing livestock, or domestic animals, may be taken immediately by the owner of the property or the owner’s employee or agent. The taking shall be reported within 72 hours to the department.
The department shall investigate the depredation, and, if the mountain lion was captured, injured, or killed, the mountain lion or the entire recovered carcass shall be turned over to the department.
Upon satisfactorily completing the investigation and receiving the mountain lion or carcass, if recovered, the department shall issue a permit confirming the requirements of this section have been met with respect to the particular mountain lion taken under these circumstances.”
While mountain lions can pose a significant threat to people, pets and livestock when natural prey species cannot be found, for the most part lions want nothing to do with us. Mountain lions are typically shy and stealthy and very few people will ever have the opportunity to see one in the wild.
For more information: wildlife.ca.gov