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Tue, Oct. 15

Wildlife officers kill lion after report of Walker attack

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials killed a mountain lion Friday near the home where a Walker resident said a lion attacked him Sunday.

The mountain lion was found less than a half-mile from the house where the reported attack occurred in Walker, just southeast of Prescott.

Officials estimated the female lion was 6 to 7 years old and weighed approximately 75 pounds. The size of the lion is consistent with the tracks found at the attack site.

Officials will conduct a full necropsy on the animal and submit the head for rabies testing to help determine if disease or other physical ailment influenced the animal's behavior.

"There's really no way to be 100-percent certain this is the responsible animal without any material to submit for DNA testing," said Zen Mocarski, public information officer for the Game and Fish Kingman office. "However, the house where the reported attack took place was visible from the location where this mountain lion was removed."

Game and Fish will continue to monitor the neighborhood for lion activity as a public safety precaution.

The Game and Fish wildlife-human conflict policy provides guidance for the department when responding to reports of wildlife threatening or harming people or causing property damage.

"An attack by a predatory animal is not something you take lightly," said Jeff Pebworth, wildlife program manager in Kingman. "Public safety needs to be a priority in a case like this, and our protocol is clear in regards to action. Had this mountain lion left the area, it's possible we wouldn't have heard anything else about this incident."

An initial hunt for the lion was called off Tuesday afternoon because dogs were unable to pick up a scent, and the terrain made it difficult to track.

Following a separate report of a sighting on Wednesday morning, Game and Fish returned to the scene near the Snow Drift Mine area in Walker and began searching on Thursday morning. Dogs did track a lion's movements around the area, but did not locate the mountain lion.

On Friday morning, they located and killed the lion.

"Mountain lion attacks are rare," Mocarski said. "Most reports we receive involve a sighting, with a mountain lion passing through an area. These types of situations are not unusual.

"However, following this suspected attack and subsequent calls from neighbors, this mountain lion was remaining in close proximity to a number of homes."

Walker resident Andy Bell, 30, said the lion dove on his back Sunday night when he tried to run away from it to his house. He said he slid under his truck and a low-hanging hitch hit the lion in the head and scared it off.

Pebworth offered some advice in the event of an encounter with a mountain lion.

"Don't run," he explained. "Running triggers the predatory instinct. Think of a house cat when you pull a piece of string. It'll leap into action."

In the event of an encounter, Pebworth said: "Stand tall, make a lot of noise, throw things if something can be reached without bending down, and, if all else fails, fight back with anything at your disposal."

To learn more about mountain lions and other predatory animals and what you can do to prevent an encounter, visit the Arizona Game and Fish website at www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife.

To report a lion sighting, contact the Game and Fish office in Kingman at (928) 692-7700 during office hours and (800) 352-0700 after hours.

With a string of recent wildlife calls throughout Arizona, Mocarski said it's important the public understand this won't be the last incident, and the public should be keenly aware of their own behavior to help minimize interaction with wildlife.

For example, he said putting out food and water to attract wildlife can have dire consequences for animals.

"It's the food chain," Mocarski said. "When people feed deer and javelina, predatory animals can follow. Deer are the favorite food of the mountain lion. If there is an easy food source, there's little reason for a predatory animal to move out."

He said something as simple as birdseed on the ground can set off a chain of events that will lead to unwanted encounters for those feeding or unknowing neighbors.

"Javelina will gobble up bird seed, and it can also bring in a number of smaller mammals," Mocarski said. "If you put out seed, keep it off the ground and use a non-spill feeder. This isn't only about wildlife, but being respectful of your neighbors."

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