I received and email from a reader about Mountain Lion activity in Sabino Canyon. Here is his note:
I’m a local Tucson cyclist that rides often in Sabino Canyon and I thought that the cycling community should be aware of some very recent–within the past week–mountain lion activity.
The US Forest Service put out a recent warning (copied below) about several mt. lions being active along the main road, and has additional info at http://www.azgfd.com/w_c/mtn_lion.shtml. The So. AZ Hiking Club also makes mention of this at: http://www.sahcinfo.org/post/2010/09/03/Canyon-Chronicle.aspx.
I thought that this might be of interest to the cycling community and that you might be interested in noting this on the Web site.
And here is an email from the area’s biologist:
Thursday was quite an active day for the lions in Sabino Canyon. We had a number of sightings and encounters in the general vicinity of Stop 6 between the hours of 0630 and 0930. Based on the tracks that I found there were at least three and possibly four lions. Behavior at each of the sightings or encounters vary, but some observed behavior raise concerns and many people have contacted my about those concerns. Many of you are aware that a member of our volunteer patrol had an encounter where he used his whistle. It appears that the whistle may be helpful, BUT it was not perfect. In fact, the first use of it only served to reposition the lion. It was likely that when the hiker followed up and found the lion again that the lion interpreted his actions as aggressive and left. So, my point is that the whistle helped, but is not the solution.
It is once again time for all of us to review the advice for human/lion interactions. This is available in one of the blue fliers entitled “Mountain Lions in Sabino and Madera Canyons and on Mt Lemmon”.
For SCVN, I advise that perhaps you add an adult or two to the groups who are there to “beat the bush” and keep look-out. Keep the children in groups and don’t let any stray or wonder off.
For volunteer patrol, make frequent contacts and ensure that people are aware of the brochure and the general situation. I would also advise that you work in pairs and carry some form of communication (there appears to be better cell phone coverage in the canyon these days).
For the bike patrol, same general advice. Make lots of contact and work in pairs. An added note that bicycles have additional concern since their kinetic nature has been known to excite lions.
Some have noted an apparent contradiction in the advice between “throwing rocks” and “not bending over”. This is a judgement call. Perhaps, if the situation allows, pick up a rock at the first sighting and while the animal is (hopefully) at a distance. All decisions are situational.
Remember as always to GET THE NAME AND NUMBER of anyone who has a lion sighting or encounter. Get me that information quickly. You can call my work cell anytime (520-403-8277
District Wildlife Biologist
Santa Catalina Ranger District