Stalking mountain lion killed on Mount Lemmon
TUCSON — A mountain lion that stalked, chased and threatened two mountain bikers on Mount Lemmon Saturday was shot and killed by state wildlife authorities May 16 when they, too, were stalked while investigating the incident.
The 70-pound mountain lion was sent to the University of Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Lab for rabies testing Monday. It was determined to be an 18-month-old, non-lactating female in good condition, according to a press release from Arizona Game and Fish.
“We have a high level of confidence that we shot the mountain lion that threatened the two mountain bikers, as well as two wildlife officers,” said Gerry Perry, who is the supervisor of the department’s Tucson regional office. “We can’t say for sure that this mountain lion was one of the Sabino Canyon mountain lions causing problems this past year, but its behavior fits the pattern and it was located just a few miles from the former closure area.”
The mountain bikers, Jeremy Roggow and Omar Romero, both of Tucson, reported to Game and Fish Department officers that they were riding down the Green Mountain Trail on Mount Lemmon Saturday evening. Roggow says he saw a mountain lion running about 15 feet behind Romero and outpacing him.
According to the report Roggow shouted a warning to Romero, who got off his bike and began throwing rocks at the lion.
Roggow then joined Romero and the two used their bikes as a shield against the animal. They described the lion as crouching, tail down, and slowly crawling toward them. The men also say they shouted at the lion and continued to hit it with thrown rocks, but say it showed no fear and kept coming. Eventually, the two men say the lion ran off after being hit by rocks in the neck and ribs.
Roggow and Romero called 911 after returning to their homes on Saturday night and were referred to the Game and Fish Department.
The following day, two Arizona Game and Fish Department wildlife officers hiked the Green Mountain Trail area to investigate.
Officers Hans Koenig and Aaron Hartzell hiked about a half-mile from the Hitchcock Campground looking for tracks and other sign. During the return trip to the campground, they heard rustling and saw a mountain lion crouched in the brush 10 yards off the trail. The officers shot the mountain lion, which had been stalking them.
“As we hiked down the trail back to the campground, I saw that one of our boot tracks in the dirt had a fresh mountain lion track on top of it. The cougar had apparently followed us up the trail. It was a dangerous situation,” Koenig said, a 15-year wildlife management veteran.
This incident highlights the need for outdoor enthusiasts to stay alert to their surroundings and to travel in pairs when possible.
“These two mountain bikers did it right. They didn’t run,” says Perry. “They stayed facing the mountain lion. They yelled and threw rocks at it and finally drove it away.”
For information about mountain lions in Arizona and what people should do if they encounter one, visit the department’s Web site at azgfd.com