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Fish and Game president photographed with dead, hunted mountain lion

Dan Richards, the president of the California Fish and Game Commission (Western Outdoor News)

February 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Dan Richards, the president of the California Fish and Game Commission, is in the political line of fire after a photo of him and a dead mountain lion was posted online. There's an effort to remove Richards from his job.

Commissioner Richards often clashes with animal-welfare groups over hunting, but a recent seven-day/$7,000 trip to Idaho has created a buzz on Facebook and Twitter.

Some rescued mountain lions are living out their days at the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary. Since 1990, it has been illegal to hunt them under voter-approved Proposition 117.

But a photo posted on the Western Outdoor News website is getting animal rights activists angry and creating a buzz on social media: The photograph shows the president of the state's Fish and Game Commission, Dan Richards, holding a dead mountain lion he recently hunted. It's not legal to bring the animal back to California.

The San Bernardino County Republican from Upland was appointed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008 but only became president recently on a questionable 2-to-0 vote.

"No big surprise that they would be revolted at the image of our top Fish and Game Commissioner trophy hunting and taking a mountain lion with a big smile on his face," said Jennifer Fearing, senior California director of the Humane Society of the U.S.

"It's sort of equivalent to an appointed drug czar heading off to a foreign country where drug use is legal, participating, and posting pictures on the Internet," said Fearing.

Neither Richards nor the Fish and Game Commission wanted to comment.

The Mountain Lion Foundation says it has been fielding numerous emails and calls. The non-profit organization helped get Prop. 117 on the ballot and is among the organizations calling for Richards to resign.

"Californians sort of trust the Fish and Game Department and their commission to be the protectors of our wildlife resources, and this person is showing that he really doesn't care," said Tim Dunbar, executive of the Mountain Lion Foundation.

But the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance doesn't think Richards should resign. After all, it is legal to hunt mountain lions in Idaho.

"What Mr. Richards did in Idaho was neither illegal nor was it immoral," said Bill Gaines, president of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance. "The legal hunting activity in Idaho of mountain lions has no bearing on his ability to act as a Fish and Game Commissioner in the best interest of California's wildlife resource."

California governors do not have the authority to remove any of the five commissioners but the Legislature does. There might be a bill introduced soon to get rid of Richards. His appointment expires in January.