8/30/2006 4:00:00 AM
These are tough times for wildlife, especially for predators.
Humans are encroaching increasingly on wildlife habitat, and drought and bark beetle infestations have taken heavy tolls on all wildlife, including the predators' food supply.
Both dynamics are leading mountain lions to look increasingly on people as lunch. It's sad that officials with the Arizona Game & Fish and U.S. Wildlife services had to track and kill the mountain lion that has been stalking humans in the Granite Mountain area since July 20.
The killing of the lion came on the heels of six different incidents of a lion getting far too close to people in a menacing way. Six Prescott National Forest trail workers said a lion stalked them July 24 while they hiked on Trail 350 just south of Granite Basin Lake. They had to yell and throw rocks at the cat to get it to leave.
Campground host Paul Cravens said a lion followed him down Trail 351 near Granite Basin Lake during his evening walk this past Friday. Again he had to yell and wave his arms to get it to leave. On Saturday, three hikers on Trail 350 had to walk away from a lion that showed no fear of them even after they yelled at it.
Officials who killed the lion really didn't have much choice after the cat repeatedly menaced humans.
Let's hope the cat they killed was the cat and they don't have more than one mountain lion to worry about.
Regardless, everyone using the trails needs to be much more careful and cognizant of their surroundings. It takes desperate circumstances to force usually shy and reclusive wildcats to start taking that kind of an interest in people.