Mountain lions have been sighted in two locations in the Rim country, one in Pine and one in Payson.
The Pine sighting has been confirmed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, according to Craig McMullen, field supervisor for that agency. A female mountain lion and two cubs, probably about six months old, were sighted on the north side of Highway 87 in the Pine Creek and Portals area.
"It is a confirmed sighting," McMullen said. "We sent a wildlife manager there and he actually saw the lion, so we are in the process of monitoring the lion's behavior that moves it along the continuum that makes it a danger to people.
"It starts with demonstrating some lack of fear of humans or remaining around residences. It can escalate to pets missing, to feeding around human occupied areas, all the way to the point that it no longer yields to humans."
McMullen said the single sighting was reported and confirmed on Friday.
"The lion was remaining close to a home for such a lengthy period of time during daylight hours that is worthy of investigation," McMullen said.
The other report, that a mountain lion has been seen repeatedly near Payson Senior Apartments, 311 S. McLane Rd., is so far unconfirmed, according to McMullen.
"We like to confirm by observing the tracks or some other means," McMullen said. "Frequently bobcats are mistaken for mountains lions."
McMullen noted that March and April are when wildlife encounters begin occurring.
"It's springtime," he said. "It's coyote breeding season. If they haven't whelped already, they will be soon. Bears are emerging from their dens.
"It looks like we're heading into another spring and summer of severe drought, and we need to get the word out to people to keep the ‘wild' in ‘wildlife.'"
First and foremost, that means not feeding wild animals.
"Humans feeding wildlife is the No. 1 cause of human-wildlife contacts," McMullen said. "Food, water and cover are the fundamental needs of any wildlife species, and if we're providing that in town, those are all attractants.
"People need to not be good neighbors to the wildlife in terms of throwing rocks at them, yelling at them, generally just doing anything to keep them uncomfortable around humans."
Here are some tips from the Arizona Game and Fish Department on what to do if you encounter a mountain lion:
- Do not hike, jog or ride your bicycle alone in mountain lion country; go in groups, with adults supervising children.
- Keep children close to you: observations of captured wild mountain lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children. Keep children within your sight at all times.
- Do not approach a mountain lion: most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Do not run from a mountain lion: running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If there are small children there, pick them up, if possible, so they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
- Do not crouch or bend over: a person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. When in mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
- Appear larger: Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
- Fight back if attacked: many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
The Game and Fish Department also has the following tips for those living in mountain lion country:
- Don't feed wildlife: by feeding deer, javelina or other wildlife in your yard, you may inadvertently attract mountain lions, which prey upon them.
- Deer and rabbit proof your landscape: avoid using plants that deer prefer to eat; if landscaping attracts deer and other prey items, mountain lions may be close by.
- Landscape for safety: remove dense and/or low-lying vegetation that provides good hiding places for mountain lions and coyotes, especially around children's play areas; make it difficult for wild predators to approach a yard unseen.
- Closely supervise children: keep a close watch on children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about mountain lions and teach them what to do if they encounter one.
- Install outdoor lighting: keep the house perimeter well lit at night -- especially along walkways -- to keep any approaching mountain lions visible.
- Keep pets secure: roaming pets are easy prey for hungry mountain lions and coyotes. Either bring pets inside or keep them in a kennel with a secure top. Don't feed pets outside; this can attract javelina and other mountain lion prey.
People who see bears or lions in or around human areas during normal business hours should report the sighting to (480) 981-6400. For after hours emergencies, call 800-352-0700.