By Kari Huus
Investigators are trying to track down who cut off the paws of a 135-pound cougar found dead Wednesday morning near a California freeway.
Andrew Hughan, public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the case is being investigated as poaching. It is illegal to take body parts, he said, even if — as it appears — the animal was first killed by a car. "It’s still desecrating a specially protected species," he said.
Animal Rescue Team, the organization that helped find the mountain lion, said that the animal's genitals had also been removed. Fish and Game initially confirmed that information. They later said it was erroneous.
The mountain lion was a 2- to 3-year-old male — a teenager, in human terms, according to Hughan — when it died along a rural stretch of Highway 101, a major commuting route for Los Angeles.
Here’s what they know: At about 5 a.m. the California Highway Patrol received a call from a motorist who spotted a deer in a southbound lane of the highway, a few miles from the small town of Buellton, population 2,500.
When the highway patrolman arrived, he found no deer, but spotted a dead cougar — badly torn up after apparently being hit by a car. He pulled the animal off the road and into the brush, and called a game warden. More....