Local woman is among few to see rare black mountain lion

PRESCOTT – Brenda Patton was pulling out of her Prescott driveway one winter morning when she saw something unusual out of the side of her eye.

She thought to herself, "That's a funny-looking dog. And it's a big one, too."

She stopped her car and studied the animal, which was staring back at her just a few feet from her driveway in the TimberRidge subdivision on the southwest side of Prescott.

It was sleek black, and about the size of her 100-pound dog.

The animal then loped across the street to a neighbor's driveway, and she noticed its large head and long tail before it disappeared into the trees.

She then realized she was among the few Prescott residents who have spotted the local legend that one Arizona Game and Fish wildlife manager dubbed the "Yeti of the Southwest."

Patton, a physician who since has since moved to a different Prescott home, was one of only two local residents to report a black mountain lion sighting to the Game and Fish Department in 2003. However, her neighbors have told her that they have seen it, too.

One other person in this county reported seeing a black lion with a cub in the Mayer area last April.

Patton had read about the black catamount in The Daily Courier, which first started reporting sightings in 1998 after Game and Fish officials finally heard from enough people that they decided the lion wasn't a figment of people's imagination.

"I thought, 'Cool, now I saw it,'" Patton recalled.

Since moving close to Thumb Butte, Patton continues to see lion and bobcat tracks, but she hasn't spotted the black lion again.

The new resident of her former home, Rob Alder, said he hasn't spotted the Yeti of the Southwest either.

Game and Fish officials want people to call their office in Kingman or Phoenix if they see any lions or bears, so they can do a better job of tracking their comings and goings.

Sightings of the brown variety of mountain lions are understandably more common.

Last year, 19 Yavapai County residents reported seeing mountain lions, while only two reported bears, in Prescott and Crown King.

Game and Fish didn't compile local reports for the first half of 2002 because of employee turnover in the regional office in Kingman, but information officer Zenon Mocarski later added up 12 lion reports and 11 bear reports in Yavapai County during the second half of 2002.

Eleven of the 2003 lion reports came out of Jerome, where residents were demanding Game and Fish action after a rash of missing house cats.

Five of the 2003 reports came from the Prescott area. One person saw a lion while walking on a trail in Pioneer Park, and another said a lion attacked his dog.

If people report lion sightings quickly enough, Game and Fish officials can stop by and check for evidence.

Sometimes they conclude the reports were wrong, by checking tracks and scat and animal remains.

For example, lion scat generally doesn't contain vegetable matter, and tracks generally don't include claw marks, so Game and Fish officials ruled out at least two sightings.

In another case, a Jerome resident thought a lion came into his or her home and ate a house cat, but the cat returned home two days later.

Contact the reporter at jdodder@prescottaz.com