Fish and Game head in hot water over hunting photo

February 21, 2012 6:45:01 PM PST
The head of California's Fish and Game Commission is being accused of scandalous behavior. He's supposed to protect mountain lions in California, but that didn't stop him from hunting one down in Idaho. A photo shows him with his mountain lion trophy and it could cost him his job.

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

Since 1990, it has been illegal to hunt mountain lions under voter-approved Proposition 117. But it is a particular photo from Western Outdoor News' website that's getting animal rights activists angry and creating a buzz on social media. It shows Richards, the president of the state's Fish and Game Commission, holding a mountain lion he recently hunted. It's not legal to bring it back to California.

The San Bernardino County republican was appointed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008, but only became recently president 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 from 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."

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 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 protectors of wildlife resources and this person is showing he doesn't really care," said Tim Dunbar from the Mountain Lion Foundation.

However, 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 and the legal hunting activity in Idaho of mountain lions has no baring on his ability to act as a Fish and Game commissioner in the best interest of California's wildlife resource," said Bill Gaines from the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance.

California governors do not have authority to remove any of the five Fish and Game commissioners, but the Legislature does and there is talk about introducing a bill to get Richards fired. His appointment expires in January.


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