A couple years ago out in the backcountry, a mountain lion harassed sheep at a ranch near Alpine. Trappers who work for the federal government caught it and shot it.

Turns out the mountain lion had a name (sort of) and a tracking device that helped biologists follow its movements. The  mountain lion’s death was notable for another reason: It highlights the debate over the largely unexplained killings of thousands of wild animals in the backcountry.

Should the sheep have been better protected? Maybe with a cage? But that might not be feasible. Should the mountain lion have been shot for simply looking and finding food?

Read our previous story for background on our bid to get the feds to explain why they killed more than 18,000 animals since 2005.

Crime’s Up

The major-crime rate in the city has gone up this year, says the police chief, and he thinks it’ll keep rising. He blames budget cuts, the release of prisoners and more calls about people with mental-health problems.

Last year, the police department challenged our reporting that said it had been moving away from so-called “proactive” policing that focused on the causes of crime.

But now, the brass is singing a somewhat different tune about its role. A new report says: “the greatest concern raised by most community members is that officers have become less visible and there has been a perceived decrease in police presence in recent years. Citizens reported seeing fewer bike and foot patrols, and observing less enforcement of crime and quality of life violations. As a result, there is also a perception that crime is increasing.”

False Claim over Parking at the Park

The battle over the makeover of Balboa Park has been a fierce one, with opponents questioning whether the city will end up being stuck with the bill for a $16.5 million underground parking garage behind the organ pavilion. Supporters say parking fees will pay for the garage and leave taxpayers off the hook.

Councilman Todd Gloria, who supports the plan, tried to downplay the risks by saying that the projections of parking revenue “presume that every freed space in the park is occupied before people will start to choose to park in the garage.”

He was trying to make the projections sound conservative. But San Diego Fact Check finds that his claim his false, and a Gloria spokeswoman acknowledged the error.

Democrats to Fletcher: Come Aboard

Jess Durfee, the chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, called Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s decision to leave the Republican Party last year “one of the most cynical political ploys we’ve seen in San Diego in decades.” He was always ready with a damning quote for how you couldn’t trust Fletcher and that his policies were unacceptable to Democrats.

Now, though, Durfee’s trying to woo Fletcher to register as a Democrat.

North County Like No One’s Ever Seen It

At first glance, North County seems fairly easy to define.

Del Mar and Poway? Sure. Rainbow? Absolutely, and bonus points if you know where it is. Ramona, the place I know best as that town on the way to Julian during pie season? Maybe, maybe not. Might be East County, unless it doesn’t want to be seen with Santee.

County Supervisor Bill Horn represents a big chunk of North County, so you’d assume he’d be familiar with its boundaries. Or not.

As U-T columnist Logan Jenkins discovers, Horn has funneled a big chunk of taxpayer money — $236,000 — into an economic development project for the “five cities” in North San Diego County. Well, make that some of North County: “Missing from Horn’s prosperity blueprint are Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Poway, Ramona and on and on,” Jenkins writes.

Quick News Hits

• Thanks to a plea deal, a former San Diego cop accused of trying to force a prostitute into sex has received three years of probation instead of facing felony charges, NBC 7 San Diego reports.

For background about charges of misconduct against San Diego cops, check our previous stories about this case and a cop gone bad and the warning signs that were seemingly ignored.

•  Compton has joined the expanding list of California cities that have bankruptcy on the brain, the LA Times reports.

• Some uniformed members of the military will march in this weekend’s gay pride parade, but others aren’t being given permission, the U-T reports.

• The owner of the North County Times plans to introduce paywalls to almost all its papers by the end of this years. The LA Times and U-T already have paywalls that keep readers from seeing all their stories online for free. (The U-T’s paywall — with a possible assist from “Seinfeld” — has even inspired a “hash tag” on Twitter: #15worthy, referring to stories that are worth making one of your 15 freebies a month.)

• Yesterday was opening day at the Del Mar races, and the U-T has the scoop on the most fabulous hats of them all.

As usual, not only the hats were refreshed. To borrow a phrase from Johnny Carson, there were lots of new faces — and many of them were on the old faces.   

If any racing fans have Botox left over, it might come in handy at Del Mar. Turns out it’s been used as a treatment for an equine hoof disease.

Or at least that’s what the horses are telling people it’s for. Likely story.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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