Rush Creek, not far as the crow flies from Indian Valley, was the scene Thursday, March 22, of another in a series of lion killings.
This makes the seventh lion killed in Plumas County since the long stretch of dry weather turned in late January.
A lion that was cruising the neighborhood of Mount Hough Estates is being sought as well, though it hasn’t been seen there again since pursuit began in earnest late on the second day it had been seen prowling.
Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood deemed it a public safety threat that second day, which is all a deputy needs to be able to dispatch the lion.
“My deputies have a right and a duty to dispose of such public safety threats,” he said, adding that he wished he had the staff necessary to post a 24-hour watch in the community.
Deputies may also enlist the aid of a tracker, according to Department of Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan.
Hughan said his department would stand behind that action 100 percent, and an after-action depredation permit would be issued.
The lion was spotted at 7:45 that second morning behind the Pioneer Road home of Margaret Holcomb, which is right across the street from a school bus stop, one of three in the small neighborhood.
The time was actually within moments of the school bus stopping there, though the children had already been driven to school by parents that day, said Sheriff’s Deputy Phil Shannon, something they had been doing for about two weeks.
Shannon said that one resident there saw the body of a medium-sized brown dog in the lion’s mouth the first day, but no one reported a missing dog.
Shannon called the DFG that first day, and was told he’d need an actual missing dog before a depredation permit could be issued.
“Could it have been a young deer?” he wondered about the supposed missing dog.
Maybe, but probably not.
To Shannon and to Rush Creek resident Will Farris, the usual deer herds in those areas have been depleted.
“They just haven’t been around like usual,” Farris said. “There used to be a few, and now there’s not even one.”
A warden did respond to the Crescent Mills sighting that first day, and so did a tracker.
Neither could find sign of a lion being in the area.
Meanwhile, two lions have been seen prowling the Rush Creek neighborhood, and several residents are missing their pets and chickens.
Shannon mentioned his puzzlement with the DFG wardens and their inability to respond quickly to these incidents with mountain lions.
Longtime resident Carol Viscarra, who lives where lions have been killed in the past, has some ideas about that.
“For the first time in at least 60 years the Indian Valley area no longer has a resident warden,” she said. “In addition to the obvious delays the commute contributes, it puts both the officer and the residents at a disadvantage because there are no personal trusting relationships created.”
Residents became accustomed to such relationships with former wardens Don Dunham and Bob Orange, she continued.
The department approves of the current warden, Kyle Kroll, living in Quincy.
“Kyle can choose to live in a place that is best for his family,” Hughan said. “And his supervisors know that he is more than able to cover his assigned area living where he does.”
Viscarra also wondered if the delays are caused by the need to assemble a television crew to come and film for an episode of “Wild Justice.”
Hughan was vehement in his denial.
“I promise you the warden is not going to wait, or jeopardize public safety to wait for a TV crew to get to them so they can get good video,” Hughan said. “I totally understand the perception that DFG is catering to (“Wild Justice”) to make us look good or increase recruiting or any other reason but it’s just not the case.”
Sometimes a warden is present quickly, but people just don’t see him or her.
Lions are doing what they have always done, hunt and eat, he added.
“Seven lions have been killed in your area in recent weeks on depredation permits so steps are in place to keep the public safe,” Hughan said. “But at the end of the day people living in lion habitat accept a certain amount of risk to accommodate their living-area choices.”
He thinks the relatively mild winter is affecting wildlife behavior and may be a factor in the increased activity and sightings.
Meanwhile, Hagwood urges residents who see a mountain lion in their community to call 911 and report it.
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