Center for Biological Diversity

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

March 19, 2004

AGFD admits moving adult cougars to captivity doesn’t work.

Government has still not shown good evidence of threat, or tried other options.

Protest Saturday morning at Sabino Canyon to support pumas.

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

TUCSON -- When questioned at a public meeting today, Arizona Game & Fish Deputy Director Steve Ferrell admitted he knew of no examples where adult cougars had been successfully moved in to captivity.

“We appreciate the significance of the government considering other approaches, but this is not a good option,” said Daniel R. Patterson, CBD Desert Ecologist. “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 are encouraged that we’re getting closer to a solution, but we urge Game & Fish try options that will allow the cougars to stay in their Santa Catalina Mountains habitat.”

Citizens will protest in support of saving cougars Saturday morning at the Sabino Canyon parking lot, with a rally starting at 11am.

Government officials still have not shown good 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 by the media are unconfirmed, and biologists know that most lion sighting reports from the public are inaccurate.

“Conservationists are very concerned with public safety. I personally have a small child and we go to Sabino Canyon and other Arizona wildlands often,” said Patterson. “But the public is entitled to the facts and detailed evidence, and yesterday’s report that school cafeteria workers saw a lion cannot be considered confirmed until AGFD shares more details with the public.” He adds, “AGFD continues a disturbing practice of withholding or simply not sharing detailed information. We are concerned, but yesterday AGFD did not find on-the-ground evidence, such as tracks, to confirm the sighting was in fact a cougar, but even if it was, the animal left the area and no one was stalked or threatened.”

There are other easier, safer and less expensive solutions besides capture or killing.

“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, describing cougar management in the urban-wildlife interface around Boise, in the Arizona Daily Star, March 11.

Governor Janet Napolitano, Congressman Raul Grijalva, 27 state lawmakers and others have joined a huge public outcry against the Sabino Canyon puma hunt.

“Even if these cougars are moved, they may die, and more will then move in to the area. With this approach, its likely future cougars will suffer the same fate,” says Patterson. “If the government succeeds, Sabino Canyon will change from some of Tucson’s best lion habitat to a trap. Sabino Canyon is a wild area, not a city park or Disneyland, and it shouldn’t be managed this way. This is not a long-term solution."

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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