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California wildlife official under fire for puma hunt

The president of the California Fish and Game Commission, facing calls to resign because he killed a cougar in Idaho, is the target of an ethics complaint that alleges he accepted an illegal gift from the ranch where he shot the animal.

The complaint filed Thursday with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleges that Dan Richards accepted a $6,800 gift from the Flying B Ranch because he didn't pay the full fee normally charged to guests who go on guided mountain lion hunts.

Under California law, officials can't accept gifts of more than $420 a year.

The Associated Press left a phone message Friday seeking comment from Richards.

The ethics complaint is the latest salvo against Richards after a photo in Western Outdoor News showed him smiling in a snowy wilderness, holding up the dead, outstretched animal that's about as long as he is tall.

Hunting cougars, which are also called pumas or mountain lions, was banned in California in 1993, though it's legal in Idaho and other states.

After the photo surfaced, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and 40 Democratic Assembly members joined animal rights groups in calling for Richards' resignation.

The ethics complaint was filed by Kathy Bowler, a former California Democratic Party official, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Richards defended his hunt in an appearance Thursday on a conservative radio talk show in southern California. He called his critics "enviro-terrorists" and said he would not step down from the five-member commission, which sets hunting and fishing regulations in the state.

Richards, a Republican from San Bernadino, unsuccessfully ran for governor during the 2003 recall election, garnering 383 votes.