By Mary Slosson
SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - The President of the California Fish and Game Commission, who sparked the ire of animal rights groups when he hunted and killed a mountain lion in Idaho in an act prohibited in his home state, was unanimously voted out of his position on Wednesday.
All five members of the Commission, including ousted President Dan Richards, voted to appoint another president effective immediately although Richards will remain a member of the group until his term expires in January, a commission staff member said.
Controversy began when Richards killed a mountain lion in Idaho earlier this year in a legal hunt and a photo of him with the dead animal was posted on the Internet. Idaho Fish and Game officials said he legally purchased a hunting license.
The Sierra Club of California, the Humane Society, and others decried the kill and called for Richards' resignation, noting that hunting mountain lions has been illegal in California for more than two decades.
California voters passed a ballot measure in 1990 that classified mountain lions in the state as a "specially protected species," making them illegal to hunt or kill.
Jennifer Fearing, California state director of the Humane Society of the United States, applauded the commission's action and faulted Richards for posting graphic photographs of the hunt online and for criticizing detractors.
"Richards has paid a high price for flaunting his out-of-sync values in Californians' faces," she said. "We are very glad to see the commission hold him accountable for his unprofessional behavior."
Richards, who was named to the Commission in 2008 by Republican former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, works in commercial real estate and real estate development
The California Fish and Game Commission is a separate entity from the much larger California Department of Fish and Game, which receives a roughly $400 million annual budget from the state.
(Additional reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho)