$2,000 reward offered in the case of the mutilated mountain lion
Investigators with the California Department of Fish and Game are offering a $2,000 reward for information in the case of the mountain lion found dead on the side of the 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara County with its front paws cut off.
Wardens believe the paws will be sold. It is illegal to possess mountain lion parts in California.
"One theory that we’re exploring is that someone was listening to a police scanner," said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for Fish and Game, said Wednesday, "and was able to get to the scene before our warden."
Between the time of the initial call about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday and the arrival of Fish and Game Lt. Jim Solis at 9 a.m., the perpetrator would have had a chance to find and mutilate the carcass, authorities said.
The California Highway Patrol took the initial call from a motorist reporting "a deer" in the No. 2 lane of the southbound 101 a few miles south of Buellton. Upon arriving at the scene, the CHP officer moved the carcass out of sight of traffic before calling Fish and Game.
When Solis arrived, he saw that the mountain lion had been mutilated. After collecting evidence, he moved the body farther into the brush. He suspected that the mountain lion had been chasing a deer across the highway when it was struck by a passing vehicle.
With the passage of Proposition 117 in 1990, mountain lions are classified in California as a "specially protected species," and hunting them is illegal in the state. Earlier this year, the president of the Fish and Game commission was criticized by state legislators for participating in a mountain lion hunt in Idaho.
Anyone with information on Tuesday's incident should call the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258, a confidential line for turning in poachers and polluters. The $2,000 reward is being offered by the CalTIP Foundation and comes from donations to the foundation without the use of state funds. If the information results in an arrest, the caller is eligible for the reward.
-- Thomas Curwen