continued The coyotes he can kill. What about the dogs? Again, Valentine's friend answers first. "You're dealing with somebody's pet. They buy five, ten acres; the dog can run everywhere. Pretty soon the dog joins up with another dog, and another dog, and they run all night. They tear up his sheep. They kill just to kill. They get into my cattle when the cows have just calved, try to get the calf. I'll shoot the son of a guns and just leave them where they lay. But if I miss one and wound him, and he goes home, and they find out I've done it, they'll probably throw me in jail. And that's not right."
Zeigler said a sheep that's been chewed up by dogs is not a pretty sight. Valentine elaborates. "There can be pieces of skin in 10, maybe 15 places missing. The belly is out, you can see the liver, and they stay alive. Not only one; you'll find, a lot of times, a bunch. It makes you sick to see."
Valentine's friend mentioned that dogs will go after cattle. Glenn Drown, a big, slow-talking part owner of Tulloch Ranch near Santa Ysabel, agrees. He says it's more of a problem with sheep, but "one of our ranches over on Interstate 8, out near La Posta, there's sometimes dog problems out there. More so with the younger calves. They just run them; they chase them around, bite at them, tear them up. Then you have to destroy the animal, and a calf can be worth $350 to $550 at the time we sell it."
Later in the conversation, I ask how methods of dealing with varmints have changed. "The thing that has probably changed is you just don't discuss what you do. Before, it wasn't a problem; people didn't get squeamish if you shot a stray dog. Now you don't tell anybody, just because of animal rights issues and things like that. We, fortunately, have never had that happen. If it's one of the neighbor's dogs, that's kind of a tough issue."
Drown depends on coyotes to keep the squirrel population down, since squirrels consume large amounts of pasture and make holes into which livestock may step and break a leg. (Though coyotes don't pose much of a threat to his cattle, he's been approached by a predator hunting club. "They're predator callers. They go out and try to help ranchers, they find a place where they can call. They do that as a sport.")
Sometimes the coyotes aren't enough. "We had a bad squirrel problem seven or eight years ago. We had some friends who liked to target shoot, and we eliminated four or five hundred of them over the course of a year, over different acreages."
This year, Drown lost a calf to a mountain lion. "We saw the tracks and found the calf where it was killed, up in the brush. There were plenty of deer around, so you know that the lion just took the easy way and would continue to do it." Drown called in Animal Control. Turman describes the procedure. "[We use] trailing hounds that are trained in the tracking of lions and bears. They're placed at the carcass, and they'll pick up a fresh track from there and just work the track until they jump the lion. They'll chase it up a tree or into a rock pile or whatever. The cat's shot at that point. It's usually a one-day affair; usually, not even that long."
Though the lion is a specially protected mammal in California, and though traps are sometimes used, the lion is always killed. (Permission is granted through a depredation permit issued by the Department of Fish and Game.) "Every piece of mountain lion habitat in the state is at max capacity," explains Turman. If you move a lion, "you're moving a problem."
Turman is concerned about California Senate Bill 1143, which, if passed, "would ban the use of dogs to pursue lions, bears, bobcats, and raccoons. It would also ban the use of traps in the state of California. I haven't read all the text, but I think it includes adc. That's probably going to have an effect on the price of the commodities at some point. It's a really bad deal, because we're protecting endangered species, primarily ground-nesting birds, from predation. From what I understand, it would affect those projects as well."