Mike North: Richards now the hunted

March 6, 2012 

It's a modern-day witch hunt, and all that's missing from this mob are pitchforks and torches.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Dan Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission, who's been under fire from animal rights groups recently for killing a mountain lion in Idaho -- an activity that's legal in Idaho, unlike in California.

The activists claim that it's wrong for a wildlife official to go to another state to carry out an activity that isn't legal in his own.

Since that column, the Richards saga has only gained steam, and it isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

I usually don't like to ask rhetorical questions in my columns, but I feel this situation calls for it:

Are people losing their minds?

I said it before and I'll say it again -- it's absolutely wrong and utterly baffling that anyone would go after someone for something that isn't illegal, scandalous or unethical. But that's what you get with animal rights fanatics who come from organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States.

Make no mistake -- this issue was created by activists and is a blatant attack on the hunting community and a message from extremists that if you hunt, you may be scorned for it.

Since the story first broke, there have been many developments that shed better light on the circumstances around the controversy.

Recently, Richards responded to his critics through a Feb. 28 letter addressed to Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, who wants Richards ousted from his post because of the hunt.

Though Richards shouldn't have to defend his (legal) actions, I'm glad he wrote the letter, since it clears the air of several issues.

For example, some critics have condemned Richards, not necessarily for hunting, but instead for killing an animal that he didn't eat. But that allegation is false, according to Richards' letter.

"And so we're perfectly clear, this hunt was not a high-fence hunt, we didn't use 4-wheel drive trucks, snow machines or ATVs to chase the cat, I did not use a high-powered rifle with a scope at 300 yards and we did dine on Mountain Lion for dinner, all contrary to so many erroneous reports," according to Richards' letter.

But the revelation that the outdoorsman ate what he killed didn't seem to quell the storm.

You'd think the communication and reasoning Richards provided in the letter would be appreciated and seen as honorable.

Nope.

Government officials labeled the letter as arrogant and even put down Richards' verbiage, claiming it was poorly written.

Several heavy-hitting organizations have also lent their take on the issue.

The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action is calling for folks to get involved by encouraging state leaders to oppose any effort to remove Richards from office.

As for now, Richards has made it clear that he has no intentions to resign from his post.

And for those (like myself) who've wondered what mountain lion tastes like, Richards described it as delicious, according to a Sacramento Bee blog. "It's like a pork loin and it's white meat and it's really good."

That explanation is fine, but I think Richards missed a great opportunity to describe the taste as "purrrfect."

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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