Center for Biological Diversity

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

NEWS UPDATE (3/17/04): Public forum Friday in Tucson on Sabino Canyon cougars.
Government ‘evidence’ of puma threat still very sketchy. AGFD Director agrees to meeting.

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

TUCSON -- There will be a public forum on the Sabino Canyon cougar issue at 11am this Friday in downtown Tucson at the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting room, 150 W. Congress.

AGFD Director Shroufe, who is out of the state this week, today agreed to meet with the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups next week to discuss alternatives to killing the cougars. Coronado National Forest Supervisor Derby may also participate. The Arizona Game & Fish Commission agreed yesterday to halt attempts to kill Sabino Canyon cougars until this weekend.

Government officials have no evidence that lions in Sabino Canyon are likely to attack humans. A March 12 AGFD report obtained by CBD showed only 1 of 36 (2.8%) reported potential lion sightings in or near Sabino Canyon confirmed since 2002, and only 3 of 36 (8.3%) as possibly confirmed. 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.

“I see no reason, based on the information I’ve seen, to kill mountain lions in Sabino Canyon,” said Paul Beier, a Northern Arizona University wildlife biologist and cougar expert, after reading a similar U.S. Forest Service report

Unfortunately, AGFD and the Forest Service appear ready to resume the puma hunt Saturday.

In response, public interest and conservation groups are calling for an additional 14-day hunt moratorium.

Twenty-two 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.

“The hunt moratorium is an important cooling off period for the government, and we hope they will follow the strong public demand for more reasonable options,” said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson. “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, high-risk area closures and hazing. We urge Game & Fish try options that will allow the cougars to stay in their Santa Catalina Mountains habitat.”

“We will get houndsmen to come out and track the lion to its day bed or denning area, then chase the lion out of the vicinity. Typically, that works pretty well. The lion won’t come back after harassing behavior.” said Steve Nadeau of Idaho Fish & Game, in the Arizona Daily Star, March 11.

Governor Janet Napolitano, Congressman Raul Grijalva, State Representative Ted Downing and others have joined a huge public outcry against the Sabino Canyon puma hunt.

“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.

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.

Sabino Canyon is a controversial fee-demo area, and the Coronado National Forest benefits financially from its maximum use by people.


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