Should the Mountain Lion Killer Be Criminally Charged?

October 10 2007, 11:14 AM

I'm intrigued by the story of Jeremy Kochar who shot and killed a mountain lion outside his trailer to save his kids' puppy who was entrenched in the lion's jaws. Under Colorado law, a person can shoot an animal to protect human life and livestock but not pets. The distinction, it seems, is economic. Livestock have a monetary value and pets don't. What about the emotional bond a family forms with its pets? Shouldn't that be considered of value? The lion's killing wasn't planned. As for those saying the family should have known better, Dana Fox, Mr. Kochar's mother-in-law says:

The family is living out of a trailer parked in a mountain clearing while they work on a wildfire mitigation project for West Range Reclamation, and were not familiar with Colorado or the native wildlife, Fox said. "They feel very bad about the animal having to be shot," Fox said. "They just didn't know that mountain lions would come up like that. Yes, it was a mistake on their part to have the dog out, but it certainly wasn't baiting. It wasn't a planned kill."

The animal wildlife groups want Kochar criminally charged to set an example.

Wendy Keefover-Ring, director of the Boulder-based Sinapu Carnivore Protection Program, said state prosecutors should cite Jeremy Kocar for enticing the mountain lion by leaving his dog tied up outside overnight...."I think it's absolutely negligent," Keefover-Ring said. "If you're living in mountain-lion country, it's common sense that you don't tether a dog outside. He needs to be made an example of."

It's not illegal to chain a dog outside at night. Also, Kochar says the lion took menacing steps toward him.

Kocar said the cougar turned toward him and took an aggressive posture, prompting him to fire a round at the cougar's head. "I'm from Wisconsin -- and we take care of things there," Kocar told the Camera on Monday.

The man chose to kill one animal to save another that belonged to him and his family. It was an unfortunate accident. The fact that it could have been prevented had he been more familiar with Colorado laws or customs regarding wildlife doesn't mean he should be charged with a crime. It means we need to do a better job of educating people about living in places where wildlife roam. Investigators will be deciding whether to charge Kochar with various crimes in the next several days. I think we need to stop turning to the criminal justice system as a means of solving every societal issue, particularly those like this one that result from simple negligence without criminal intent.

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