A former Tejon Ranch hunting guide, Bron Sanders, has turned whistleblower. He is suing Tejon Ranch for wrongful dismissal in a suit worth $500,000. His claim is that illegal killing of mountain lions is happening at the company’s direction.
“We learned of Mr. Sanders’ allegations only after he became aware that he was being terminated for cause,” said Tejon Ranch spokesman Barry Zoeller. “…we conducted a thorough investigation internally and had all parties interviewed by outside counsel. Based on that investigation and those interviews, we determined that the allegations were ridiculous and untrue.”
“Ridiculous and untrue.” Maybe. The hunting community hates the 1991 law that made hunting mountain lions illegal in California.
Tejon Ranch is not in the business of “Preserving California’s legacy”; they are in the business of making a profit for their shareholders. The hunting operations bring in the bucks. Mountain lions kill and eat game prized by trophy hunters who pay up to $20,000 to shoot elk on the 270,000-acre ranch. There is a fee for hunting elk, antelope, deer, wild turkeys, bears and other game. Check the website: http://www.tejonranch.com/ Basically, you can pay to shoot anything that moves. Even a Condor. Whoops! That was an accident.
Tejon Ranch managers gave hunting guides “special perks” for shooting mountain lions and even asked customers to participate, according to Sanders’ claim. Guides who killed mountain lions were instructed to say that they feared for their lives, the lawsuit said. Thus any big cat that poses a threat, whether real or imagined, to humans or live stock is fair game. A violation of permit requirements is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year or a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
Where’s the Proof…One Way or the Other?
If the whistleblower is bringing proof of numbers of mountain lions killed without a depredation permit, that information is not public yet. What we do see is the kill shot and Bron Sanders posed with a dead lion. See: mountainenterprise.com
Turns out the guide has blown the whistle before. He was a Taft Police officer who was dismissed for cause and subsequently sued the Department. So it makes you wonder. Did he have a bona fide suit? Is it in the world of possibility that ethical or procedural practices could take place in the Taft Police Force?
If the suit goes to trial, Sanders could win $500,000. The more likely scenario is that Tejon Ranch will negotiate a confidential settlement in some lesser amount. Can you imagine a trial airing ranch operations in public?
Is Bron Sanders just an ethical guy who went along to get along, up to a certain point, and then said no? There appears to be enough to Sanders’ allegations that the Department of Fish and Game has already begun an investigation.
This bad publicity for the ranch comes close on the heels of the news that the California High-Speed Rail project is revisiting the route of the proposed bullet train. Running the tracks alongside the I-5 would be a definite detriment to the Ranch’s proposed luxury Tejon Mountain Village development. I’ll bet the boardroom is buzzing right now.
Because hard facts are so scanty at this point, for my research I turned to the online hunter community. They most likely know what’s going on. Here’s a succinct comment from Dominic at calguns.net: “Do I believe a fired hunting guide would lie about something like this? Yes. Do I believe that mountain lions are being killed on the Tejon without a depredation order? Yes. Do I care? No.”
And from Jessehunting.com. “Another disgruntled employee looking for a paycheck, Lions need to be managed just like the wolfs. nuff said.” By Knows the Secret Handshake.
Now ask me. Do I believe that nuisance mountain lions are killed on the Ranch? Probably. There’s a lot of places on 270.000 acres where nobody’s looking and a $20,000 trophy buck is worth a lot more than a mountain lion.