Just down the road from Pullman, through the fertile Palouse and into north central Idaho, lies the 5,000-acre Flying B Ranch, a corporate big game hunting lodge where California Fish and Game Commission president Dan Richards recently bagged a mountain lion, then posed clutching its massive limp carcass for a picture that's gone viral - along with the emotions of animal-rights activists. Now Richards is being asked to resign.
The latest to demand his ouster is ex-San Francisco mayor and now state Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, whose father was past president of the Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation. In a letter Monday to Richards, he wrote: "Thank you for more than 4 years of service to the people of California as a member of the California Fish and Game Commission. Unfortunately, recent events make it clear that you cannot continue in any capacity on the Commission."
Richards recently flew into snowy Idaho to stalk the mighty lion because hunting such game in his own state is illegal. Then-Governor Ronald Reagan first signed a reviewable ban in 1972, and voters approved a permanent ban in 1990. (Cougar hunting is legal in Washington - seasonally - as well as Oregon and Idaho). Legislators in Sacramento, feeling Richards' Idaho cat shoot was in ethical conflict with California's preservation laws, are now attempting to remove him from the commission.
Western Outdoor Newsfirst reported on Richards' hunt earlier this month, noting he traveled "deep into the wicked terrain of Idaho's Flying B Ranch to fulfill a long-held goal," and pictured him hugging the big, dead cougar with both arms.
The pic quickly spread about on the web, causing an uproar among Humane Society and animal preservation supporters. (The San Francisco Chronicle yesterday ran the photo with a note to readers, "Warning: Graphic Content.")
Some Facebook commenters thought Richards should himself be hunted down and shot; others said he at least ought to be jailed, and that it was both barbaric and unethical to shoot what you don't eat.
The Outdoor News is now firing back, supporting the "independent thinker" Richards and pointing out that "Hunting mountain lions is perfectly legal in Idaho, but that distinction is lost on a lot of people who should know better."