Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California on January 30, 2000 · Page 8
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Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California · Page 8

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Ukiah, California
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Sunday, January 30, 2000
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Page 8
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v A-8 — SUNDAY, JAN. 30, 2000 'THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNA1 California's cougar population may be on decline! By JOHN HOWARD Associated Press Writer SACRAMENTO — Smooth and silent, mountain lions prowl at twilight along hundreds of miles of Sierra Nevada foothills, seldom £. glimpsed by a swelling population of residents who view the majestic . 'oats with equal measures of delight and fear. "I love walking, but I pay attention to what I'm doing. I'm not ; going to walk early in the morning. You have to respect their space. .'• Jt's like living in the city — you wouldn't walk in a bad location," ) said Nancy Gerbault, who lives in the forests above Suiter Creek, a . ,Gold Rush town about 40 miles east of Sacramento. . ; Long the stuff of Western lore, California's mountain lions — also , , known as cougars, bobcats, pumas, panthers and catamounts — are a species in transition. After sharp growth from the 1970s to the early .'90s, their numbers are now showing a decline, state and private .experts say. > > "Lion activity is going down. We are seeing a general decline, but ' that's not to suggest that they are endangered at all," said Steve Tor' "res, a mountain lion expert with the state Fish and Game Department. . ••..' Experts believe the population grew too big for the available habi- • tat to sustain and is now falling to a more natural level. • • Adult males are largely territorial and will fight to the death over , turf. As the protected lion population increased, the cats fought each .Other for ground. ''['" "It's called 'compensatory mortality. 1 Each lion has its own territo- ' ry, and if another lion comes into that territory, the weaker lion must ' either leave immediately or be killed," said Lynn Sadler, executive '.^ director of the Mountain Lion Foundation, a 26,000-member wildlife "preservation and research group. • "The problem is, there are too few studies to know how all this works, so it's just a guess. It's sort of a 'rubber band' effect — the population of lions rose to more than the habitat could sustain, and now .the decline we see may just be a settling in," Sadler said. * Experts aren't sure how many mountain lions there are in Califor- Qia. The best estimate from the state Fish and Game Department is 4,000 to 6,000 animals, with the heaviest populations on both slopes of the Sierra Nevada, in the forests of the northwest coast and in the rolling hills of the central coast. An adult male may roam over 100 square miles. Musician Melissa Etheridge joins fight against Prop. 22 in other states. State law currently recognizes only marriage between a man and a woman. "This Proposition 22 is not about telling me that I can't get married. I can't. ... What Proposition 22 does is tell me, my partner, my children, that we are less than my neighbors," the musician said. Shepard also faulted the proposed legislation, saying it would lead to inequality. "I am speaking out against the Knight Initiative, Proposition 22, because there's nothing but pain and harm that can come from this measure," Shepard said. She said the initiative indirectly relates to the death of her 21-year-old son who was killed because he was gay. By CYNTHIA L. WEBB Associated Press Writer BEVERLY HILLS — Rocker Melissa Etheridge and the mother of a gay college student who was murdered in Wyoming equated a California initiative to ban state recognition of same- sex marriages with ignorance and hatred. Etheridge publicly joined the crusade against Proposition 22 on Friday — a decision she says stems -from being not only an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, but from being a mother of two. - "When I heard about the Knight Initiative, Proposition 22, I was saddened because this is my home, my community," said Etheridge, who is raising a 3- year-old daughter and 1-year-old son with partner Julie .Cypher, a filmmaker. The gay singer has lived in California for 18 years and said she represents thousands of people "that are just like me that don't happen to have two Gram- mys that this affects. And this affects me deeply." Etheridge spoke at a news conference Friday sponsored by opponents of Proposition 22. She joined Judy Shepard, whose son, Matthew, was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die outside Laramie, Wyo., in October 1998. His attackers have since been sentenced to life in prison. • Proposition 22 would prohibit California from granting legal recognition to same-sex marriages that are legally performed "What it does is create a climate where such actions are viewed as acceptable," she said. Etheridge, whose song "Scarecrow" is dedicated to Shepard's son, said she hopes her visibility as a musician can help fight the measure. The No-on-22 campaign needs the help — opponents of the measure have been outspent by more than 2-to-l and have. lagged in recent opinion polls by 11 to 20 percentage points. "I have not been subjected to the kind of hate like Judy Shepard's son. I don't have any horror stories to tell," Etheridge said. "I am a mother - a working mother in a long, loving relationship, a 12-year relationship. I have two beautiful children." UKIAH GROCERY OUTLET *% Shop Us First & Save up to 70% * "2000 ways 2 Save you Money!" 1203 N. State St • Ukiah $ Gilbreath & Park Optometry Drs, Gilbreath & Park are pleased to announce an Open House of their newly expanded office. Fri. Feb. 4th 12-5 pm 102 Scott St. A representative will be here to show you the latest designer frames from Kenneth,Cole, Ocean Pacific and Jessica McClintock. JESSICA M<QJNT3CK 19011 a • i f i H A L KENNETH COLE COlllCTIO 102 Scott St., Uklnh 462-7040 The population peaked in 1994 and 1995, Tones said. "We were seeing heavy impacts on small prey, we were seeing attacks on people, depredation of livestock," he said. About 300 incidents were reported and verified in a 12-month period, about double. the number of an average year. The attacks included the fatal mauling of jogger Barbara Shoener, 40, who was killed in 1994 during her morning run near Auburn Lake Trails 40 miles east of Sacramento. Such attacks seldom occur — about a dozen people have been Others have seen cougars, which usually roani at dawn or dusk, perched in trees, darting though undergrowth or sunning themselves on rocks. One Shasta County woman saw one crouched on a highway. . A Camino man in his hot tub stood up, nude, and waved and shouted at a lion after the animal approached. He edged into his house without turning his back on the cat, which left. A week later, the man's son saw a mountain lion near their trash can. Cougars have been seen throughout the state — in a Carmel back- killed by cougars in the United States and Canada during the past yard, in the woods of Humboldt County, in a Ventura orchard, in the __^t____. !___* *!_«. A __A» U —* -** — _A^_ u *l__ —._. J f. .1 f ^_ _P*I^_ l!*t ¥ ..- U A i _!__ _ AA * ..f OMA* T^iM4*«« ««* MAflTAlOV C Tll/IPfl t^flrlf Ofl/l century — but they capture media attention and fuel fears of the lithe cats, who are sight predators and attack from ambush. An adult male may weigh 160 pounds and measure eight feet from nose to tail; the female is smaller. "It's like airplane crashes. They are rare but they are so high-profile that anytime anything happens they get written about and everybody sees it. It's the same with this, especially when something happens in a populated area," said state Fish and Game spokesman Steve Martarano. Once hunted for $50 to $100 bounties, cougars have been shielded from hunting since 1972 — first by a series of moratoriums, and then by a 1990 voter-approved initiative. The numbers of lions appear to , Laguna mountains east of San Diego, in Berkeley's Tilden park and the Oakland hills, the San Gabriel mountains east of Los Angeles; the hills east of Susanville. The lions' favorite food is deer. "The primary factor that would describe their distribution is the presence of deer," Torres said. Viewed as a scourge by early Californians, pumas were killed on sight. Later, the state authorized bounty killing, and some 12,'400 cougars were killed for money between 1907 and 1963, when' the bounties were withdrawn. Current law allows a mountain lion to be killed only if it is a direct threat to a human, is ravaging livestock or if it is threatening an have seesawed — down sharply when hunters bagged them, up dra- endangered species. Recently, one cougar was killed because it posed matically when the protections took effect! now declining gradually through natural forces. Many people talk about mountain lions, but relatively few have encountered them, despite the explosive population growth and sub- urbanization of California's outback. And verified sightings are even more uncommon: what are reported as lions actually turn out to be dogs, especially golden retrievers, or other domestic animals. By one estimate, six out of 10 sightings are flawed. In Redding, Fish and Game agents answering a resident's call shot what they thought was a mountain lion. It turned out to be an Abyssinian house cat. Gerbault, who has lived for years in the foothills, has seen the lions twice. Once, a cougar darted in front of her car as she drove her daughter to school. The lion ran alongside the car, then leaped into the forest. Near the town of Volcano, Gerbault saw a mother lion with two cubs in the brush. a threat to the protected Bighorn Sheep. Perhaps 200 lions are killed annually, most by ranchers trying to protect their stock. But rural residents see the cougars as simply part of life in the country. "Any time you live in a rural environment and you have pets, hawks may get them. You have to pay attention to the animals. Raccoons can be really destructive, skunks can be a problem. A bear that came here a couple of years ago entered peoples' houses and destroyed kitchens," Gerbault said. "You just have to pay attention," she said. 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