State wildlife officials are defending a game warden having shot and killed a mountain lion Sunday afternoon in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park
Relocating the roughly 1-year-old, 60-pound male was not an option because the cougar had already shown itself to being a public threat and would likely have endangered humans wherever it was moved to, explained Dan Sforza, the assistant chief of enforcement with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, at a news conference Tuesday morning.
Madison Smith had said she was hiking along Borrego Trail near Foothill Ranch Elementary School with her 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter when they heard the mountain lion snarling and making hissing sounds and saw it acting aggressively toward the boy.
As Smith's son moved back toward his mother, the beast got into a crouching position, bared its teeth and seemed ready to pounce, according to the mom. She estimated it got within six feet of her boy.
Another hiker shouted and threw rocks at the animal, but it would not retreat. Smith was finally able to get herself and her children out of the area safely and then call 9-1-1.
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Orange County sheriff's deputies and a Fish and Game warden encountered the mountain lion in the same area of Borrego Trail, and because they could not scare it off they decided to take it out.
Sforza says they suspect the cougar got separated for its mother and was still learning how to hunt. But it having shown no fear of humans was too dangerous to ignore, especially in a park where 35-year-old mountain biker Mark Jeffery Reynolds was fatally mauled in 2004 (which led to one of the greatest articles in this rag's fine history).
A necropsy is being done on the mountain lion, City News Service reports.