Living With Wild Animals - Mountain Lions

This information is from the Arizona Game and Fish Department website:

This photo was not taken in Dove Valley Ranch. The photo is included here so residents can identify these animals. If you have a photo of this animal taken in Dove Valley Ranch please send it to your photo will be included on this website.

The mountain lion, also called cougar, puma, catamount, and panther, is the largest cat native to North America. Mountain lions can be found throughout all portions of Arizona. They are most common in rocky or mountainous areas. Because mountain lions are shy and elusive, people don't often see them. However, the Arizona Game and Fish Department estimates the state's mountain lion population at 2,500 to 3,000. Mountain lions are usually solitary, except females with young. Signs of mountain lion presence include large tracks (3-5 inches wide) without claw marks; large segmented, cylindrical droppings; food caches where a kill has been partially eaten and then covered with brush and dirt; and scrapes in soft dirt or leaf litter.

Possible Conflicts with Humans and Pets

Urban sprawl and shrinking habitat are increasing numbers of conflicts between humans and mountain lions. Conflicts can occur when a mountain lion becomes accustomed to people, such as when a lion hunts near where people live or recreate, and when lions kill livestock or other domestic animals. Although uncommon, mountain lion attacks on humans occasionally occur.

What Attracts Them?

Mountain lions are often just passing through, but may visit an area to get food, water, or shelter.

  • Food found near people's homes includes deer, javelina, rabbits, unsecured domestic animals, or livestock.
  • Water for drinking can include a swimming pool, fountain, puddle, or pet's water bowl.
  • For shelter, mountain lions might make use of cave-like areas beneath sheds, unused buildings, and storm drains.
  • Other influences that may contribute to mountain lion presence around humans include:
  • Drought - Animals will come in closer to humans to search for food and water.
  • Wildfires - Arizona wildfires damage vital habitat and force animals into new areas.

Habituation to humans through close contact, exposure, and increased development near wildlife habitat - Humans feeding mountain lion prey, having livestock adjacent to wildlife habitat, and related activities create familiarity.

What Should I Do?

Mountain lions are predators capable of killing or seriously injuring humans, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department is committed to public education to help people learn how to behave responsibly and live safely in proximity to lions. The risk of attack by a mountain lion is small, but real; children are most at risk. Mountain lions may return repeatedly if food, water, or shelter is available. However, mountain lions use natural areas, such as washes, to move through populated areas to more remote areas, and such movements are necessary to prevent problems with inbreeding and local extinction associated with habitat fragmentation. If food, water, and shelter are not available, mountain lions generally move on to other areas more quickly. If you live or recreate in lion country, remain aware of your surroundings and take steps to minimize risks to yourself, your family, and pets.

If you encounter a mountain lion:

  • Do not approach the animal. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Stay calm and speak loudly and firmly.
  • 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.
  • Appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly. The idea is to convince the lion that you are not easy prey and that you may be a danger to it.
  • Maintain eye contact and slowly back away toward a building, vehicle, or busy area.
  • Protect small children so they won't panic and run.
  • Fight back if attacked. Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, their bare hands, and even mountain bikes. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the animal.

Report all mountain lion attacks to 911. Report all mountain lion encounters and attacks, plus sightings in urban areas, to your local Arizona Game and Fish Department office (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday - Friday excluding holidays). Also, call Game and Fish if severe property damage has occurred or if there is possession of a live mountain lion. After hours and weekends, a radio dispatcher is available at (623) 236-7201.

If you live in mountain lion country, you can:

  • Hike or walk in groups.
  • Make noise when you're outside.
  • Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors, especially in rugged country between dusk and dawn. Talk with children about mountain lions and teach them what to do if they encounter one.
  • Keep dogs, cats, poultry, rabbits, rodents and other domestic animals indoors or in a secure enclosure with a sturdy roof. Always walk pets on a leash. Roaming pets are easy prey for hungry mountain lions and coyotes. Do not feed pets outside and keep their food inside; the food can attract javelina and other mountain lion prey.
  • Avoid feeding wildlife. By feeding deer, javelina, or other wildlife in your yard, you may inadvertently attract mountain lions, which prey upon them.
  • Trim landscaping around your home. Remove dense and low-lying vegetation that can provide good hiding places for mountain lions and coyotes, especially around children's play areas.
  • Install outdoor lighting. Keep the house perimeter well lit at night, especially along walkways, to keep any approaching lions visible.