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Calif. wildlife official voted out after killing mountain lion in Idaho

FRESNO, Calif. -- The president of the California Fish and Game Commission, who sparked the ire of animal rights groups when he hunted and killed a mountain lion in Idaho in an act prohibited in his home state, was unanimously voted out of his position on Wednesday. 

All five members of the Commission, including ousted President Dan Richards, voted to appoint another president effective immediately although Richards will remain a member of the group until his term expires in January, a commission staff member said.

Controversy began when Richards killed a mountain lion in Idaho earlier this year in a legal hunt and a photo of him with the dead animal was posted on the Internet. Idaho Fish and Game officials said he legally purchased a hunting license.

Read the full story on NBC affiliate KCRA.com

"I was fully aware today would be my last day as the president," Richards said after a unanimous vote to replace him with member Jim Kellogg.

The Sierra Club of California, the Humane Society, and others decried the kill and called for Richards' resignation, noting that hunting mountain lions has been illegal in California for more than two decades. 

'Specially protected species'
California voters passed a ballot measure in 1990 that classified mountain lions in the state as a "specially protected species," making them illegal to hunt or kill. 

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"Californians have twice voted in a resounding fashion to protect mountain lions in our state, and his flagrant flaunting of his disagreement with the electorate put him out of sync with California," said Jennifer Fearing, state director of the Humane Society of the United States. "We're glad to see the commission take action."

Critics, including animal welfare groups, said the commission chief should uphold the values of the state he represents. Hunting groups defended Richards.

Mountain lion shot, killed after prowling Santa Monica shopping mall

Richards also came under fire for accepting the $7,000 hunting trip without paying any of the cost. He repaid the hunting lodge after an ethics complaint was filed.

In the wake of the controversy, the commission changed rules that give the presidency to the most senior member of the commission and instead chose to have the president selected by majority vote.

NBC Los Angeles: Lion-killer comments will sink Richards

He told the San Jose Mercury News during a recent interview that he broke no wildlife laws.

"There's no chance I did anything wrong," Richards said. "I did everything by the book."

NBC News staff, KCRA.com and Reuters contributed to this report.

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