The species is classified as a game mammal, along with deer, elk, bear, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, bison, peccary, tree squirrels, and cottontail rabbits. The species is also classified as big game, along with wild turkey, deer, elk, bear, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, bison, peccary, and bear.
Rather than directly protecting animals, Arizona’s endangered species law merely creates a fund that is to be spent in preservation of threatened habitats.
Generally, treatment of wildlife in the State of Arizona is governed by the Arizona Revised Statutes – the state’s collection of its laws, updated at the end of each legislative cycle. Arizona also collects its department regulations in the Arizona Administrative Code. Since our summary below may not be completely up to date, you should be sure to review the most current laws and regulations for the State of Arizona.
You can check the statutes directly at a state-managed website: http://www.azleg.gov/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp These statutes are searchable. Be sure to use the name “mountain lion” to accomplish your searches.
The Arizona state legislature is a bicameral legislature consisting of a lower chamber – the House of Representatives – and an upper chamber – the Senate. The House of Representatives is made up of 60 members, and the Senate is made up of 30 members. Members of both chambers serve 2-year terms and are limited to four consecutive terms. If you do not know in which legislative district you live, Arizona maintains this website to help you find your district. If you already know in which district you live, you can contact your legislator by using the House of Representatives’ membership roster and the Senate’s membership roster.
The legislature meets annually with the session beginning on the second Monday of January and normally running until late June. The governor may call special sessions when he/she feels it necessary. During special sessions, the legislature may only pass laws related to the subject for which the governor has called the session.
Arizona’s wildlife regulations can be found in Chapter 4 of the Natural Resources section of the Arizona Administrative Code. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission sets the regulations found in that chapter.
Arizona Game and Fish Commission
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission is a five-member board appointed by the governor. Members serve five-year terms, which expire on the third Monday in January of their final year. No two members may be residents of the same county, and no more than three members may belong to the same political party. The commission sets Arizona’s regulations for managing wildlife and fisheries. It also regulates watercraft and off-highway vehicle use.
Arizona Game and Fish Department
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) enforces the state’s wildlife laws and the Game and Fish Commission’s regulations. The AZGFD is a stand-alone department within the executive branch of the Arizona state government.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department reviews, revises, and reports on mountain lion conservation strategies when the Game and Fish Commission directs it to do so. As of 2014, the latest report appears to be the 2009 Mountain Lion and Bear Conservation Strategies Report. The report was written by “wildlife scientists and managers,” two of whom were not employed by the AZGFD. The commission takes no action on the report itself but can implement its recommendations in future public sessions. There do not appear to be written guidelines as to when a new report is to be issued.
Hunting of mountain lions is allowed in the State of Arizona. The regulations governing “recreational” hunting of mountain lions specify 76 units. AZGFD’s hunting regulations booklet states that mountain lion season runs from July 1 to June 30.
Hound hunting is allowed.
Arizona allows the hunting of mountain lions with centerfire rifles, muzzleloading rifles, all rifles using black powder or synthetic black powder, centerfire handguns, handguns using black powder or synthetic black powder, shotguns using slugs or shot, bows with a standard pull of 30 or more pounds, and crossbows with a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds. Arizona also allows hunting with the assistance of artificial light as long as the light is not attached to or operated from a motor vehicle, motorized watercraft, watercraft under sail, or floating object towed by a motorized watercraft or a watercraft under sail.
Arizona prohibits hunting spotted kittens and females accompanied by kittens. Beginning in January 2022, hunters cannot use trail cameras to aid in the pursuit of any game species, including mountain lions.
Public Safety Law
Arizona law allows any person to kill wildlife “in self-defense or in defense of another person if it is immediately necessary to protect oneself or to protect the other person.” That person must notify the Arizona Game and Fish Department within five days. No portion of the animal may be retained sold, or removed from the site without permission from the AZGFD. Arizona law also requires agency officials to sedate and euthanize any male mountain lion found to be in conflict with humans, rather than capturing and releasing these lions.
Depredation law in Arizona is monitored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The law specifies that a landowner or lessee whose livestock has been attacked by a mountain lion may dispatch of the depredating lion with leg hold traps without teeth, leg snares, firearms, and “other legal hunting weapons and devices.” After beginning to pursue a mountain lion, a livestock operator must notify the AZGFD within five days. The AZGFD may request that the livestock operator provide them with reasonable evidence that the livestock was attacked by a mountain lion. After killing a lion, the operator may not keep any portion of the carcass without permission from the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. The law also states that no lion taken alive may be kept in captivity.
Owners of domestic animals do not appear to be required to take any specified steps to protect their pets or livestock. There also does not appear to be a government-funded compensation program for losses of domestic animals to mountain lions.
Mountain lions may not be trapped for fur in Arizona. The laws governing trapping in Arizona specify that licensed trappers may trap predatory, nongame, and fur-bearing species. Arizona classifies mountain lions as game mammals and does not include them on its list of either predatory or fur-bearing species.
Poaching law in the State of Arizona provides some protection of mountain lions in law, but only as a deterrent. It is rare for penalties to be sufficiently harsh to keep poachers from poaching again. Anyone who takes a mountain lion during a closed season, in an area closed to mountain lion hunting, through the use of an unlawful device or method, in excess of the bag limit, or possesses or transports a mountain lion or parts of a mountain lion that was unlawfully taken is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. A class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 4 months of imprisonment. Anyone who knowingly takes a mountain lion during a closed season or who knowingly possesses, transports, or buys any big game that was unlawfully taken during a closed season is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 6 months of imprisonment. Finally, any person who barters, sells, or offers for sale any mountain lion or a part of a mountain lion taken unlawfully is guilty of a class 6 felony. The duration of imprisonment for a felony is determined by the court. In addition to the criminal proceedings, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission or any of its officers may bring a civil lawsuit against the poacher, seeking a minimum of $1,500 in damages per lion.