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Heated reception for Fish and Game head over mountain lion hunt

March 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Dan Richards attended the Fish and Game Commission's monthly meeting in Riverside Wednesday. Animal-rights activists as well as his supporters were there to greet him.

Richards' supporters outnumbered his critics by about 10 to 1. There was no official agenda item on this issue. All the testimony was from public comment. The public comment section took about three hours to complete.

It's usually pretty easy to find a seat at the state Fish and Game Commission's monthly meeting. But Wednesday it was standing room only, with more than 100 people lined up to address the controversy surrounding President Dan Richards.

There were supporters: "The California Rifle and Pistol Association supports Commissioner Richards," said one speaker.

But there are also those who want to see him go: "I would ask that Mr. Dan Richards step down voluntarily," said another speaker.

Richards was shown in a Western Outdoor News website photo holding a mountain lion he had just killed on a recent hunting trip in Idaho.

The trouble is that while killing mountain lions is legal in Idaho, it's against the law in California. And because Richards sits on California's Fish and Game Commission, the picture doesn't sit well with many people. Some people think it sends the wrong message.

"The law sometimes will permit us to do things even though it's totally against sanity and morality and kindness," said Mead Valley resident Britt Holmstrom.

"He didn't do anything illegal, but it was ethically the wrong thing to do," said Chris DeRose, Last Chance for Animals. "He was out there trophy-hunting, and here he is supposed to be representing us Californians."

But Richards had a number of supporters in the audience as well, people who say he did nothing illegal and nothing wrong.

"He's a fair thinker, he understands wildlife, and that is what our Fish and Game Commission is challenged to do," said San Diego resident Ingrid Poole.

"There are a lot of things that you can do in other states that you can't do here, and to attack him for hunting legally in Idaho, when we have so many Assembly members who bet on sports in Las Vegas, and yet are calling him out on defying the spirit of the law on California somehow, is total hypocrisy," said Jeff Greene, a representative for state Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore).

Richards released a statement: "While I respect those who may not approve of hunting ... I also would ask you and them to respect my right, and those afforded everyone who travels to other states, to participate lawfully under those states' laws and wildlife management plans."

Eyewitness News caught up with Richards Wednesday. He was asked what the chances are of him stepping down. He said, "No comment."