Center for Biological Diversity
BECAUSE LIFE IS GOOD

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

Secret baiting and trapping of cougar in Sabino Canyon shows AGFD & USFS never ended hunt. Lion did nothing wrong, and capture may have orphaned kittens that will die. Public protest Tuesday.

April 12, 2004

Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist 520.623.5252 x306

TUCSON -- On native habitat, using natural prey as bait, Arizona Game & Fish Department (AGFD) and the Coronado National Forest (CNF) secretly lured and trapped a female mountain lion in Sabino Canyon Friday. The trapped cougar may have kittens that are now orphaned and will suffer and die.

The non-threatening puma was reportedly trapped a half-mile up the canyon, away from people and a school on the national forest boundary where earlier reported sightings were not confirmed. AGFD has not reported any alleged lion sightings in or around Sabino Canyon since it was re-opened late last month, and there is no way to know if the captured cougar had ever left the canyon.

Conservationists are outraged with AGFD’s dishonesty about ending the hunt. They want major reforms at AGFD and CNF to boost future respect for public input and predator conservation.

“Game & Fish and the Forest Service were not honest about calling off the hunt, and they never showed good evidence of a threat,” said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This puma was minding her own business in her natural habitat when she was baited to a trap using her own natural prey. Now she is in captivity where she’ll likely die, and if she had kittens they will die too.” He adds, “Cougars are essential for ecosystem balance. If lions can’t live in Sabino Canyon or on our public lands, where can they live? There is important work ahead for the public, governor and legislature: reforming AGFD and the commission, learning to live better with wildlife, and curbing urban sprawl.”

When questioned at a public meeting last month, Arizona Game & Fish Deputy Director Steve Ferrell admitted he knew of no examples where adult cougars had successfully lived in captivity.

AGFD and USFS never showed good evidence that lions in Sabino Canyon are likely to attack humans. The only AGFD report released to the public 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 has no evidence of stalking of humans by lions. An earlier CNF report was very similar. Alleged sightings reported by the media were unconfirmed, and biologists know that most lion sighting reports from the public are inaccurate.

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 joined a huge public outcry in March against the Sabino Canyon puma hunt.

The dishonest move of AGFD Regional Supervisor Gerry Perry and CNF Supervisor Jeanine Derby strains working relationships with conservationists on wildlife feeding, liability reform issues, urban planning, and public process. AGFD did little to help pass a recent liability reform bill.

Sabino Canyon is a controversial fee-demo area, and the Coronado National Forest benefits financially from its maximum use by people, making $5,000-10,000 a day from parking. CNF has already signaled it will likely soon end lion-related Sabino Canyon public access management.

Public protest at the CNF Sabino Canyon office Tuesday at noon. Info: 909.896.6943.

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