Officials will fit as many as 20 mountain lions with tracking collars near Tucson and Payson in a study that aims to better understand how the animals and people can coexist.
TUCSON, Ariz. — Officials will fit as many as 20 mountain lions with tracking collars near Tucson and Payson in a study that aims to better understand how the animals and people can coexist.
Authorities are concerned about safety as more people build homes near the lions' habitat, so the Arizona Game & Fish Department is teaming up with the University of Arizona to conduct the $120,000 study of the behavior of the predators.
The collars with global positioning satellite technology will collect information that will be transmitted to an aircraft flying over the animals. The information will allow wildlife biologists to monitor the exact trails of the lions.
The mountain lion in Arizona is equally at home in the forests and deserts, said Shawnee Riplog-Peterson, curator of mammalogy and ornithology at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The animal's habitat ranges from mountain slopes to 14,000 feet down to the desert floor.
Two known mountain lions are living in Tucson Mountain Park, an area protected against hunting or harm to wildlife, she said. The entire Tucson Basin and surrounding mountains fall into mountain lion habitat.
"And as youngsters get displaced, they have to go and find their own range," she said. Often the animals wander into the range of another adult and that can end in a catfight where one is pushed farther into areas that now might be occupied by humans.
There has never been a recorded human death by mountain lions in Arizona, and deaths by such animals are rare in other parts of the country, Miles said. Still, the rate of deaths has risen dramatically during the past 15 years.
In March 2004, Coronado National Forest officials closed the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area over concerns that up to four mountains lions in the area had become so used to humans they posed a threat to visitors. For 10 days, wildlife officials tried unsuccessfully to hunt down the animals.
A few weeks later, a mountain lion was killed near Sabino and another was captured and taken to a Scottsdale animal shelter where it was treated for a tooth infection not related to the capture.
Source: Associated Press