Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 03/07/2012 10:52:39 AM PST

RIVERSIDE – Daniel Richards had a friendly crowd at Wednesday’s California Fish and Game Commission meeting.

The meeting was the first since the fallout surrounding a hunting trip Richards took to Idaho in January, where he legally hunted and killed a mountain lion.

More than 100 hunting and firearm enthusiasts spoke in support of Richards, many of which were members of local, state and national organizations, at the Mission Inn.

“I think we had a lot of divergent opinions and a lot of good dialogue and we appreciate it,” said Richards, following the three-hour long public comment period.

Richards has been in the political line of fire after a photo surfaced showing him holding the body of a cougar he had killed in Idaho.

Puma hunting has been illegal in California since 1990, when voters passed Proposition 117. It is legal to hunt mountain lions in Idaho.

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote to Richards saying the killing of a cougar doesn’t reflect California values and the incident is a distraction that interferes with commission issues. Newsom was joined by 40

Democratic state Assembly members who urged Richards to resign.

Upland Planning Commissioner Scot Moga attended the meeting in support of Richards. Moga, who is an attorney in Upland, was present representing himself as a longtime hunting and fishing license holder as well as a member of various pro-hunting and firearm organizations.

“Although I support Mr. Richards and wish him the best of luck in this political chaos, whether or not you agree with his action is not the issue,” Moga said. “The issue here is do we want extremists making the decisions for you commissioners as well as for our game in the state of California? Do we want them to say who should be on our board. I suggest no.”

Cougars are not an endangered or threatened species, said Jordan Traverso, deputy director of communications, education and outreach for the state Department of Fish and Game.

“Because there are some special protections it does in some ways restrict our ability to manage mountain lions,” she said.

Fish and Game officials will kill pumas if they become a threat to public safety. If a mountain lion is destroying property or threatening livestock or pets, residents can apply for a depredation permit that allows for the killing of the lion.

“It’s just like when we to go Nevada to gamble. We’re not arrested for that in the state, however, you cannot transport a lion back into the state,” Traverso said.

It is illegal for a cougar carcass to be brought into the state without a special permit, Traverso said.

Richards “has not applied for a permit,” she said.

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