Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

NEWS UPDATE: Arizona Game & Fish Commission upholds halt of Sabino Canyon cougar kill until Friday, but hunt will likely then resume. Legislature will question Game & Fish today at 4pm, and may hold special public hearing in Tucson on Friday.

Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist, 520.623.5252 x306

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Game & Fish Commission agreed today to halt attempts to kill Sabino Canyon cougars until Friday.

Unfortunately, the Commission, Arizona Game & Fish Dept. (AGFD), and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) appear ready to resume the puma hunt later this week, and still are not willing to try non-lethal options.

In response, public-interest and conservation groups are calling for an additional 14-day hunt moratorium, and a public meeting before the moratorium is lifted with AGFD Director Shroufe and Coronado National Forest Supervisor Derby to further explore non-lethal options.

AGFD and the Commission will face questioning on the issue by the legislature today at 4pm. 22 Arizona lawmakers signed a letter Monday strongly urging AGFD and USFS to suspend the cougar killing plan, explore non-lethal options and hold a public forum in Tucson.

“We welcome AGFD’s wise decision to halt this unjustified hunt,” said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson. “But 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. AGFD has provided no documentation to support its claims that cougars in Sabino Canyon are a threat to people. 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. A legal settlement reached last week showed AGFD and USFS killed cougars before without evidence or exploring other options or causes of conflicts.

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.


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