Calif. game official avoids fine from cougar hunt

April 12, 2012 - 6:15 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California regulators on Thursday issued a warning letter to the president of the state Fish and Game Commission over a mountain lion hunting trip he took earlier this year, but they decided against issuing a fine.

The Fair Political Practices Commission took the action against Dan Richards, a Republican commercial real estate developer from San Bernardino County. It said he violated the state's $420 gift limit when he accepted a hunting trip in January worth $6,800 from Flying B Ranch in Idaho.

Richards repaid the ranch, but he did so after the required 30-day window for repayment. He could have faced a $5,000 fine.

"Your actions violated the act because you received a gift over the limit," wrote Gary Winuk, chief of the commission's enforcement division. "However, because you did repay the donor relatively soon after receipt of the gift, although after the 30-day window for repayment prescribed by the act, we have decided to close this case."

Richards was criticized by animal rights groups and Democratic lawmakers after a photo of him holding a slain mountain lion appeared in a hunting publication. Mountain lion hunting is banned in California.

Richards, who was appointed in 2008 by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, defended his hunt in a letter to a lawmaker who had demanded his resignation.

"While I respect our Fish and Game rules and regulations, my 100 percent legal activity out of California, or anyone else's for that matter, is none of your business," Richards wrote.

A message left with the commission for Richards wasn't immediately returned Thursday.