A family of mountain lions is suspected of killing and partially consuming as many as seven or eight domestic sheep in the Diamond A subdivision located along Grove Street on the southern flank of Sonoma Mountain.
The lions are believed to be a mother and two young-adult cubs, one of which was reportedly trapped and shot by a county predator control officer (or trapper) after it had killed sheep belonging to a Diamond A resident.
The first sign of a problem occurred on Feb. 1 when a ewe and two baby sheep were discovered slaughtered by a homeowner. The owner quickly requested officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to investigate. They determined the sheep were killed by a mountain lion and approved a predation permit that was exercised by the county trapper.
State policy generally requires that when a predatory animal is found to be responsible for a livestock kill, upon approval of a predation permit, the responsible predator is trapped and then shot.
Subsequently, in late February or early March, two more sheep were killed at a different Diamond A property, but the owners waited too long to call authorities, and by the time the trapper examined the carcasses the kills could not be connected to the lions.
The trap-and-shoot policy came under fire from animal rights advocates last year who argued a federal subsidy for the trapper program might require a full environmental impact report and should be shut down. Critics of the program have protested the policy of killing large predators like coyotes, lions and bears.
But Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar said Monday that only one or two predation permits are issued each year for mountain lions. “Coyotes are the most common predators,” he said. “They’re very common in Sonoma County, and they kill a lot of sheep.”
Bruce Hoadley, a Diamond A resident who has managed a Google group for neighbors commenting on the Mountain Lion issue and the sheep slaughter, said over the weekend he believed “the lions have pretty much got them all.”
Hoadley said the prevalence of domestic sheep is partly a product of the fact that typical Diamond A properties are two acres or more, and “that’s too much to mow,” so residents buy sheep and goats to graze on their grass.
Hoadley said he and his wife don’t have sheep, but his wife, Superior Court Judge Julie Conger, raises champion Portuguese water dogs that had been kept in a fenced-in dog run with overnight access to the house through dog doors. Now, said Hoadley, the dogs are kept inside at night, with the dog doors closed.
Hoadley said the sheep killings have taken place “very close to my house. I’m in the middle of it, and I’m concerned.”
He added that the immediacy of the issue was driven home when he was driving up Grove Street two weeks ago and came upon a stopped car in the road. “All of a sudden two lions walked right by us, walking down Grove Street. It looked like a mother lion and a young adult.”