The California Fish and Game Commission ousted its president on Wednesday, six months after he faced major backlash for shooting a mountain lion during an Idaho hunting trip and posing for pictures with the slain animal.
Conservationists and California Democrats alike had called for Daniel Richards’ resignation earlier this year after the photos emerged. Mountain lion hunting is illegal in California but permitted in Idaho and other states.
Richards, a proud big-game hunter, said he broke no laws and said the campaign against him was part of a sustained effort to shut down gaming in the state.
“This originates from the enviro-terrorists being threatened by me,” Richards told the San Jose Mercury News before Wednesday’s unanimous vote to replace him.
The outrage started in February after Richards submitted a photo of himself holding up the dead cat to the hunting publication Western Outdoor News. It featured the caption, “I’m glad it’s legal in Idaho.”
He told the Mercury News he didn’t poach, didn’t import exotic animals, or do anything other than offend those who don’t like mountain lion hunting.
“There’s no chance I did anything wrong,” Richards told the newspaper. “I did everything by the book.”
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had been particularly vocal in trying to get Richards to step down, writing him a letter that stated, “I do appreciate that you did nothing illegal in Idaho, but it is clear that your actions do not reflect the values of the people of California.”
Animal rights groups celebrated the news of Richards’ ouster on Wednesday.
“It’s a symbolic insult to the voters, saying ‘Yeah, look at me, I’m your president of the Fish and Game Commission, and I’m going over here and I’m going to wave this dead cat in your face,’” Madeline Bernstein, president of the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told KCAL-TV.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Richards had also come under ethics fire for the hunt because the Idaho ranch did not charge him its usual $6,800 hunting fee — more than the $420 yearly limit on commissioners’ gifts. Richards repaid the lodge after an ethics complaint was filed.
Richards, appointed in 2008 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said he plans to remain on the commission as a member until his term expires in January.