Fish and Game commissioner who killed cougar loses presidency
Daniel W. Richards was replaced as president of the California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday, seven months after he sparked a storm of controversy by killing a mountain lion during a hunt in Idaho.
Although the kill was legal in Idaho, California has outlawed the hunting of mountain lions for decades. More than 40 state legislators called for Richards to resign in March, saying he showed poor judgment in killing the cougar when the practice is opposed by most Californians.
At the time, Richards defiantly refused to resign from the commission, saying he had done nothing improper. Even though the commission voted to elect Commissioner Jim Kellogg as president Wednesday, Richards plans to remain on the commission until his term expires in January.
Commissioner Michael Sutton was elected as vice president.
"It’s been a privilege and an honor to be on this commission,'' Richards said. "I tried to be consistent and give everyone a voice and a fair shake. I believe I made decisions on matters that reflected that."
[Updated, 12:59 p.m. Aug. 8: Sutton, an executive with the Audubon Society, said later that the killing of the lion and Richards’ comments defending it were factors in his decision to vote to replace Richards.
"It was pretty clear that Commissioner Richards had lost the confidence of the majority of the commission," Sutton said. "Most of us feel it is inappropriate to use the presidency as a bully pulpit for your views."]
The controversy over the January hunt was compounded when photos of a smiling Richards holding the dead cougar were posted on the Internet. Later, the state ethics agency alleged he had violated the state’s $420 gift limit when he accepted the guided cougar hunt worth $6,800.
However, officials with the state Fair Political Practices Commission declined to seek fines in the case after Richards belatedly reimbursed the Flying B Ranch.
--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: Fish and Game Commissioner Daniel Richards, shown at a meeting earlier this year, was not reelected as president of the panel. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times