With more and more people enjoying the abundant outdoor activities available in parks and other areas around northern Arizona, the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to ensure your safety in the unlikely event that you encounter a mountain lion.
Although mountain lion sightings are rare, it's always good to be prepared. Mountain lions -- also known as cougars and pumas -- are powerful predators. They are elusive felines that prey on large animals like deer, javelina and elk, as well as smaller animals like rabbits.
About 2,500 to 3,000 mountain lions live in Arizona. Males can grow to more than 8 feet long and weigh as much as 150 pounds. Females can grow to 7 feet long and weigh up to 90 pounds.
Here are some safety tips for living in -- and enjoying outdoor recreation in -- lion country:
- Hike or walk in groups.
- Make noise when you're outside.
- Supervise children.
- Keep your pets indoors or on a leash.
- Do not feed wildlife.
- Trim landscaping around your home.
- Install outdoor lighting.
- Never approach a 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. Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
- Raise arms and stand tall to appear dominant: do not crouch or bend over. A person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal.
- If attacked, fight back: many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the animal.
"We want to make sure that people are informed about mountain lions, how they fit into our ecosystem and how to handle the situation if they ever happen to come in contact with one," said Ron Sieg, Flagstaff regional supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
For more information on mountain lions, call (928) 774-5045 or visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department's website at azgfd.gov.