Monday, March 15, 2004 -- Second update
NEWS UPDATE: Arizona Game & Fish Director announces halt of Sabino Canyon cougar hunt. Game & Fish Commission will hold special meeting Tuesday in Phoenix.
Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist, 520.623.5252 x306
PHOENIX -- Responding to public outrage, the Arizona Game & Fish Department (AGFD) announced today in a news release “…the department director’s March 14 decision to suspend efforts to kill mountain lions at Sabino Canyon.”
AGFD also announced a special meeting of the Arizona Game & Fish Commission 10am tomorrow at the Wildlife Building of the State Fairgrounds, 1826 W. McDowell Rd., in Phoenix.
“We welcome Director Shroufe’s wise decision to halt this unjustified hunt,” said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson. “But it’s unacceptable that such an important meeting on a big Tucson issue will be held in Phoenix, and we are skeptical that Game & Fish will to try other options besides killing. The bottom line is the government still has not shown solid evidence that these cougars are a threat to anyone, and they haven’t tried other options such as trail restrictions, closures and hazing.”
Government officials have failed to show that lions in Sabino Canyon are likely to attack humans. A report released to CBD March 9 by the Coronado National Forest showed only 2 of 15 (13%) reported lion sightings on at Sabino Canyon confirmed since 2002, only 1 of 7 (14%) reports was confirmed on nearby private lands during the same period. This report does not confirm recent stalking of humans by lions, as has been claimed by officials. Recent alleged sightings reported on TV news are unconfirmed, and biologists know that most lion sighting reports are inaccurate.
“Even if these cougars are killed, more will move in to the area. With this deadly approach, it’s likely future cougars will also be killed,” says Patterson. “If the government succeeds, Sabino Canyon will change from some of Tucson’s best lion habitat to a lion killing zone. Sabino Canyon is a wild area, not a city park or Disneyland, and it shouldn’t be managed this way.”
Governor Janet Napolitano, Congressman Raul Grijalva, State Representative Ted Downing and others have joined a huge public outcry against the Sabino Canyon puma hunt. The Arizona Legislature may hold a special hearing Friday in Tucson on the issue.
Environmentalists point out that if left alone, pumas pushed in to area by the Aspen fire may soon move up the canyon and away from people due to warmer weather.
Relocation of mountain lions is not a viable option, and wildlife managers have said if the lions are located they will be killed.
Sabino Canyon is a controversial fee-demo area, and the Coronodo National Forest benefits financially from its maximum use by people.