New regulations to protect mountain lions

POSTED: 12:25 PM PDT Mar 11, 2013    UPDATED: 06:36 PM PST Mar 06, 2013 
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

State wildlife officials have new rules to protect the public from mountain lions.  The change comes after several controversial killings of the big cats.  The goal is to reduce the number of lions that are killed when they get close to people.

Before last week, California Fish and Wildlife officials were supposed to either observe mountain lions or kill them.

New regulations give state wildlife officers more options when cougars come in close contact with humans. 

"Maybe the lion is not acting afraid of humans or acting aggressively.  And, that elevates it.  These are situations where we would use some judgement.  Maybe haze the animal away... make them afraid of humans," said Lt. James Solis with California Fish and Wildlife.

Tranquillizing a mountain lion is another option.

That's what happened to a mountain lion in January.  The animal showed up in a Santa Barbara home owner's backyard.  Local animal control officials tranquilized it and eventually returned the sleepy cat to our back country.

The new rules also require residents and law enforcement to get a special permit to kill cougars that threaten livestock.