Some Pine residents spent a jittery weekend worried about mountain lions.
In one case, the alarm proved nothing more than a mountain lion cub up a tree.
In a second case, volunteer trackers treed a grown lion, lost it, then spent a second futile day trying to regain the trail before concluding it had left town.
The wildlife drama started Friday when a stray lion cub found itself up a tree, giving one homeowner quite a fright.
The homeowner called the Arizona Game and Fish Department and sheriff’s deputies to cope with the roughly 6-month-old lion.
The homeowner reported the young mountain lion just after 5 p.m. after she spotted it slinking across her yard in Pine.
The homeowner said she saw an even bigger cat earlier in the day, said Tom Cadden, a spokesperson for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
It took a Game and Fish official some time to get to the area, but when he did, he found the young cat high up in a tree in the woman’s yard.
A Gila County sheriff’s deputy was already on scene.
The Game and Fish official told the woman to leave the cat be, go inside, lock her doors and check back in the morning when the cat would likely be gone.
By Saturday morning, the cub was gone.
It’s possible the woman spotted the cub’s mother earlier in the day, since most females stay with their young for the first 18 months, Cadden said.
On Saturday, other residents reported seeing a full-grown lion in a residential neighborhood, said Dean Pederson, with the Pine School. Donnie Lane Randall and another tracker brought out their hunting dogs, which picked up the scent and managed to briefly tree the lion. However, the cougar jumped from the tree and escaped, said Pederson.
“I’m just worried about my grandkids” with a lion in a residential area, said Pederson.
The trackers spent the next day trying to pick up the trail along the highway, before concluding the lion had decamped for Milk Ranch Point, an extension of the Mogollon Rim.
Although mountain lions are typically elusive and keep out of residential areas, it is possible these lions were passing through, he said. No one knows whether the adult with the cub was the same lion the trackers chased. Game and Fish estimates upwards of 3,000 mountain lions live in Arizona.
Mountain lions stick around an area if there is a good food source. Residents should avoid leaving trash, pet food or small pets out at night and should never feed a mountain lion, he said.
Game and Fish does not plan to take any further action since the cat spotted Friday was not acting aggressively.
Residents can report wildlife sightings to the Mesa Game and Fish Office at (480) 981-9400 and (623) 236-7201 after hours.
For tips and information on living with Arizona wildlife, visit www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife.