MALIBU, California — A California mountain lion placed under a death sentence for killing nearly a dozen alpacas owned by a Malibu woman was granted a reprieve Thursday when the woman announced she wouldn’t act on a state-issued permit giving her the right to kill the animal.
A neighbor had offered to shoot the big cat known as P-45 for Victoria Vaughn-Perling, but she told reporters it was never her intention to have the cougar killed. Instead, she said, she hoped game officials would capture it and get it away from her ranch.
She also indicated public outrage might have played a role in her decision, adding she was “surprised by the vitriol.”
Vaughn-Perling had planned to attend a community meeting Wednesday to discuss the lion problem until she began to receive death threats from the cougar’s supporters. A neighbor who did attend said pro-lion people shouted over park rangers, booed speakers and challenged one rancher to a fight.
“Remember those movies where they showed the mobs and it’s all the townspeople and they’re carrying torches and pitchforks and hoes and shovels and the person behind is bringing the rope with the hangman’s noose? That’s what it was like,” Mary Dee Rickards said. “She buckled under the pressure and frankly, I can’t blame her.”
It’s not uncommon for ranchers to kill wild animals that threaten their livestock in rural areas, but the densely populated Los Angeles area’s relationship with them is more complicated.
Much of the sprawling Santa Mountain range provides habitat and wild game for the free-ranging predators, but it also takes in such densely populated areas as Malibu, Hollywood Hills and parts of the San Fernando Valley.
Another cougar known as P-22 became a celebrity of sorts after it was photographed standing by the Hollywood Sign in 2012 and more recently was coaxed safely out a homeowner’s basement in the Hollywood Hills, where it had briefly taken up residence. The cougar, which has its own Facebook page, saw its image tarnished somewhat earlier this year, however, when it was blamed for killing a koala at the Los Angeles Zoo.
Another cougar wandered onto a high school campus in the San Fernando Valley in April before it was tranquilized and returned to the wild.