Man Accused of Shooting, Killing Mountain Lion P-38

Mountain Lion P-38 in an undated photo (National Park Service) National Park Service

Criminal charges were filed against a Simi Valley man for the killing of a protected mountain lion, the Ventura County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.

Alfredo Gonzalez, 59, allegedly shot and killed the protected mammal known as P-38, according statement released by Karen Wold, the deputy district attorney.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife received a report that P-38 may have been killed on July 2, 2019, the statement said. The mountain lion died of a gunshot wound to the head, the Ventura County District Attorney's Office stated.

In addition, Gonzalez was also being charged with vandalism of the mountain lion's collar. Gonzalez will be arraigned on Oct. 9, 2019 in Ventura.

Kevin Gres, who identified himself as an attorney for Gonzalez, released the following statement in response the the charges:

"While the loss of P-38 is saddening, the mountain lion was discovered at night actively hunting just yards from children attending a popular summer camp. Mr. Gonzalez's brave and decisive actions that night saved lives. It is disappointing that local authorities fail to see the obvious, but we are confident the justice system will."

P-38 was a male mountain lion born in 2012 and first collared in 2015, the statement said. The animal was known for roaming portions of the Santa Susana Mountains.

"It is unlawful to kill a mountain lion without a permit for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife," the statement said.

Mountain lions are a specially protected species in California under the California Wildlife Protection Act of 1990, approved as Prop 117 by California voters. The classification has nothing to do with mountain lion numbers in California, but its passage made it illegal to hunt the big cats.

The mountain lion population is high in California, relative to other parts of the United States. Density estimates vary, but the figure might be as high as 10 lions per 100 square miles. By that estimate, the population is somewhere between 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions statewide.

But it's difficult to say whether that population is increasing or decreasing without an ongoing statewide study.

One thing is certain -- mountain lions go where they can find food, primarily deer. That sometimes brings them into urban areas, but it should be noted that a person is 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The department receives hundreds of reports each year about mountain lions killing pets and livestock.

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.