Pictured: DFG orders Mammoth Chevron to take down stuffed mountain lion (Photo: Geisel)/
Visitors to Mammoth Chevron have for decades ogled, ooohed and aaahed at the stuffed mountain lion that has been hanging just inside the main entrance. Chevron proprietors Karl Teller and Tom Cage said that the animal, recovered in Nevada after being killed by a vehicle in 1984, has been part of the station’s history, hanging long before they took over ownership in 2005.
“Guests would come in and ask about it, and since they’re indigenous to the Eastern Sierra, we would tell them some educational things about them,” Teller related. “They loved it.”
One guest apparently didn’t love it, and recently filed a complaint with the State Department of Fish and Game. Within the last week DFG came by the station, tagged the display as evidence, and ordered Teller and Cage to remove it or have it confiscated.
“People don’t get to see those [mountain lions] very often, even though they’re always out there … mostly they stay pretty stealthy,” Teller elaborated. “It’s a shame that one person is spoiling it for everyone else. It’s going against what has historically been a positive thing.”
By spoiling it, Teller and Cage think the complaint triggered DFG to address the issues, digging up a 20-year-old law to use as enforcement. According to Lt. Bill Dailey, DFG Supervisor for Inyo and Mono counties, under the rules set forth by Proposition 117, which was passed by voters in June 1990, no one is allowed to possess a mountain lion, unless it was taken before the law was passed, and the owner has proper documents verifying its history and status with the DFG.
Here’s where it gets sticky for Mammoth Chevron. According to the law’s provisions, even if the display predates the law the possessor has to be the original owner.
“You can’t sell, trade, buy or transfer ownership,” Dailey said, meaning that whether the display was or wasn’t part of the Chevron station’s inventory at the time of sale in 2005, such a handoff isn’t technically legal. “We’ve done a lot of research into this, in light of some recent efforts to skirt the law. If a complaint is made, DFG is required to enforce the laws as they apply. And this law was one passed by voters,” he added.
Bailey also pointed out a recent case in which a mountain lion was killed just across the border in Nevada, under a legal depredation permit issued there. Transfer into California was not allowed, due to Prop 117 restrictions.
Bailey said the identity of the person filing the complaint was to remain confidential, while the case is open and investigation remains ongoing. He did say that large voter blocks in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California helped pass Prop 117 back in the ‘90s, and indicated that the complaint might have originated in Southern California.
“It makes no sense,” Cage said, having to chuckle at what he deemed the bureaucratic hypocrisy of the law, especially the amount of money and manpower deployed on a display that’s probably as old or older than the officers sent to enforce the law.
“Here’s the DFG, spending its time and our tax dollars on something such as this. Don’t they have bigger, more pressing issues to focus on?”
Cage and Teller were also surprised not only at the attention being paid to the stuffed mountain lion, dead years before the law took effect, but also that two DFG officers arrived on Labor Day, a holiday, to make sure the Chevron station complied with the law, two days earlier than originally scheduled.
“If they had planned to take it, I was ready to fire up a chainsaw and cut it into pieces,” Teller said. “Thankfully we worked it out so that I can keep it, as long as it’s not up on display.”
Teller, meanwhile, is looking to put up a banner instead, reading something to the effect that the animal previously on display in the station was ordered removed by DFG. He also plans to explore his options with the International Safari Club, the National Rifle Association of stuffed animals, and is looking into possibly filing for a permit that would allow him to keep and possibly show the mountain lion for educational purposes, such as in museum or school settings.
The permit, Teller said, might also be the only way the stuffed animal would ever be displayed again inside the Chevron.