Hikers have encountered mountain lions recently in Sabino Canyon northeast of Tucson and elsewhere in the area – prompting wildlife officials to urge caution.
Several lions – possibly as many as four – were spotted near Shuttle Stop 6 in Sabino Canyon in late September, said Joshua Taiz, district wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service.
“There appears to have been a territorial encounter” involving a female lion, two of her offspring and a male lion, Taiz said. The animals “kind of met in the canyon and people saw a bunch of cats.”
Taiz said “a similar thing occurred around the Molino Basin area” along the Catalina Highway northeast of Tucson in early October.
“Some campers saw more than one lion playing around up there,” Taiz said.
He said none of the lions approached or attacked people.
In other instances, though, mountain lions have stalked and approached people in canyons and mountains around Tucson.
Taiz said people heading outdoors should be alert to possible encounters with lions and other wildlife, including javelinas and rattlesnakes.
On StarNet: Search our Critters database for fun facts and images of Arizona’s menagerie at azstarnet.com/critters
STAY SAFE IN LION COUNTRY
Here are tips from wildlife experts for dealing with mountain lion encounters:
• Have one or more companions with you when hiking – especially around dawn or dusk when wildlife encounters are more common.
• If you spot a lion at a distance, keep an eye on the animal and pick up a few rocks to throw in case it approaches.
• If you encounter a lion at close range, don’t approach it or turn and run.
• Maintain eye contact with the lion and back away slowly.
• Try to look as big as possible by standing tall, opening up your coat and spreading your arms, or holding a backpack above your head.
• Throw rocks or something else to scare the lion away.
• If a lion attacks, fight back fiercely and protect your head and neck.
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at email@example.com or at 573-4192.