California probes claims of killings of mountain lions
BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—The California Department of Fish and Game is
investigating claims by a former Tejon Ranch employee that the company
ordered the illegal killing of mountain lions on its property south of
The probe was sparked by a wrongful termination lawsuit filed May 3
in Kern County Superior Court by former ranch hunting guide Bron
Sanders, department spokesman Patrick Foy said Friday.
Tejon Ranch managers gave hunting guides "special perks" for shooting
mountain lions and even asked customers to participate, according to
Sanders' claim. Guides who killed mountain lions were instructed to say
that they feared for their lives, the lawsuit said.
Sanders, who worked for the ranch for five years, said he was fired
in December 2010 for complaining about the killings. His lawsuit seeks
at least $500,000 in lost wages and other compensation.
Tejon denied Sanders' allegations, the Bakersfield Californian
"We conducted a thorough investigation of the allegations internally,
and had all parties interviewed by outside counsel," said Barry Zoeller,
the ranch's vice president of corporate communications and marketing.
"Based on that investigation and those interviews, we determined that
the allegations were ridiculous and untrue."
Zoeller said the company hasn't seen the lawsuit but learned of
allegations "after he became aware that he was being terminated for
California voters gave mountain lions protected status in 1991.
Killing them without a state-issued permit is a misdemeanor punishable
by a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Mountain lions may be killed legally if there is a threat to public
safety or personal property, including pets or livestock, Foy told the
The lawsuit does not say how many mountain lions were allegedly
killed at the ranch, though it claimed one hunting guide killed more
than 30 of the animals in the last several years, according to the
Lebec-based Tejon is a publicly traded agribusiness and real estate
development company. It charges visitors up to $10,000 or more to hunt
elk, antelope, deer, wild turkeys, bears and other game on its
270,000-acre property, which remains largely undeveloped.
Sanders and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.
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