On Friday we brought you the story about a mountain lion in Prescott Valley. The Courier has always stressed in this space that we have little right to complain about these animals because we moved into their habitat. For instance, consider that mountain lions – also called cougar, puma, catamount and panther – can be found throughout all portions of Arizona.
While, according to Arizona Game and Fish, they are most common in rocky or mountainous areas, mountain lions are shy and elusive; thus, we don’t often see them.
Knowing that they really could be nearby at any time and that one was in Prescott Valley this past week, it begs the question: What should you do if you find one or come upon one?
Because urban sprawl and shrinking habitat are increasing numbers of conflicts between humans and mountain lions, problems can occur when a mountain lion becomes accustomed to people.
• The risk of attack by a mountain lion is small, but real; children are most at risk. Mountain lions may return repeatedly if food, water or shelter is available. If you live or play in lion country, remain aware of your surroundings and take steps to minimize risks to yourself, your family, and pets.
• Do not approach the animal – most will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
• Stay calm and speak loudly and firmly, and do not run – which can stimulate their instinct to chase. Stand and face the animal, and make eye contact and slowly back away.
• Appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly. The idea is to convince the lion that you are not easy prey and that you may be a danger to it.
• Protect small children so they won’t panic and run.
• Fight back if attacked, the Game and Fish says. Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, their bare hands, and even mountain bikes. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the animal.
Understand, this is a serious concern because these are animals that weigh 70 to 150 pounds, can be 6 to 8 feet long, and can jump 20 feet vertically or 40 feet horizontally in a single leap, according to the Game and Fish website, www.azgfd.gov.
How could this creature have been in Prescott Valley? A mountain lion’s territory can range from 10 to 350 square miles, Game and Fish says. Plus, they move around more when the area is in a drought – like we are – or when wildfires force them into new areas.
Take care out there – this is their home, too.