Thursday, September 28, 2006

AZ: Lion kill found on main road in Tucson park

Dead deer a mile from visitor center
By Aaron Mackey
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.28.2006

Hikers in Sabino Canyon should be alert but not alarmed after the carcass of a deer that had been killed by a mountain lion was found on the main road Wednesday, officials said.

The carcass was left by the lion about a mile from the visitor center, prompting officials to put out the alert, according to a Coronado National Forest news release.

The carcass was in an area that is still open to the public. Part of Sabino Canyon is closed because of flood damage.

The mountain lion wasn't seen and the canyon will remain open, but people using it should be aware of their surroundings at all times, Josh Taiz, district wildlife biologist, said in the news release.

"Typically lions stay pretty close to their kills, so visitors should avoid the immediate area and be alert," he said.

The carcass was later moved to a remote area so the lion could return and eat without being disturbed.

While the lion was acting normally, officials were worried that people would be shocked to find the dead deer on the road, said Tom Whetten, a spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Tucson office.

"A lion killed a deer right on the road," he said. "People aren't used to seeing that."

Mountain lion prey on deer, javelina, rabbits, rodents and desert bighorn sheep, the release said.

Warnings about mountain lions abound at the park's visitor center and trail, but officials wanted to reiterate the need to be aware, Whetten said.

The discovery of the carcass on the road doesn't necessarily mean mountain lions are becoming more brazen, said Bob Steidl, an associate professor with the University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources.

"Is there a possibility that a particular lion might be less fearful of humans?" he wrote in an e-mail. "That is a possibility, but not a certainty."

In spring 2004 Sabino Canyon was the site of a lion hunt after several human encounters with mountain lions. After closing the park, game officials planned to shoot the cats. They later decided to trap and move them after a public outcry.
An 80-pound female lion was eventually trapped and taken to a Scottsdale rehabilitation center.

Officials arrested three people who they said had set false trails and wrecked traps set for the lions.

In August, Rodney Coronado was sentenced to eight months in federal prison for trying to stop the hunt. Matthew Crozier was sentenced to three years of supervised probation.

Esquire magazine writer-at-large John Richardson was sentenced to one day in jail.

● Alexis Huicochea contributed to this report. Contact reporter Aaron Mackey at 629-9412 or

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