Cougars in the Park!
Updated: May 2
How to Live Among Our Wild Neighbors
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, pumas, panthers, or ghost cats are known by over 40 different names in English alone. They are the most wide-ranging cat species in the world and live right here in Munds Park!
Nature lovers celebrate sharing space with woodland animals. After all, the forest and wildlife are part of the Park’s romance. Lately, local Facebook groups have been buzzing with mountain lion sightings. Most are in awe, while some are concerned.
It seems everyone has Ring installed or external security cameras catching our nocturnal animals as they pass through. Today’s need to record everything gives the illusion visits from mountain lions are a new phenomenon, but wildlife roamed the Park long before we got here. If you talk to seasoned Mundsies, they will tell you there was a lot more wildlife in Munds Park than what you see today.
Gail Van Deurzen, long-time resident, remembers when she and her husband Rick enjoyed watching Elk from their front porch. She said a momma Elk and her two babies lived in a ravine nearby, and she would come out at dusk grazing for food. Gail remembers a time when the momma Elk went to the neighbor’s hummingbird feeder and tipped the nectar into her mouth gulping it down like a refreshing Coca-Cola. She says those were lovely memories and misses when the Park was quiet and wildlife freely roamed.
Today, if it wasn’t for cameras, we would hardly know animals are visiting. Loud parties, overly lit cabins, roaring side-by-sides and ATVs have made wildlife unwelcome. That’s a depressing statement considering woodland animals are one of the gifts of living in Munds Park.
The question is, how do we live in harmony with our wild neighbors? Let’s start with a few facts about our stealthy friends.
About Mountain Lions
Mountain Lions are strong, sleek and agile. Adult males average 2 to 2.7 feet tall and about 8 feet long from the nose-to-tail. They generally weigh between 115 to 160 pounds. Females are slightly smaller.
Mountain Lions can sprint up to 50 mph, jump as high as 18 feet off the ground, and can leap 45 feet horizontally.
Mountain Lions don’t roar. Instead, they growl, shriek, chirp, hiss, and even purr.
Their night vision is excellent, and they are most active at dusk and dawn. They navigate their home range in a zigzag course, avoiding open areas and taking advantage of available cover. The cat’s keen senses are focused on picking up the slightest movement, odor, or sound. They are stealthy predators, often lying in wait for prey or silently stalking it before pouncing from behind and delivering a lethal bite to the spinal cord. Typically they prey on deer but will eat any animal, including pets. Like all cats, mountain lions are carnivores.
Due to mountain lions’ prey being mostly herbivores, the seeds in the stomach of their victims will be spread through the cougar’s scat. This results in cougars unintentionally planting over 90,000 plants per year.
Like most cat species, mountain lions are solitary, interacting only to mate and raise their young. Female mountain lions give birth to 2-3 kittens at a time. On average, only one out of six cubs survives to maturity.
Mountain lion cubs are covered in black spots from birth until about 6 months old when they fade. These spots act as camouflage to help the cubs blend into their surroundings while young.
Other than humans, no species prey upon fully-grown mountain lions in the wild.
Mountain Lions Don’t Like People
The risk of mountain lions attacking humans is infinitely small, and frankly, the number of attacks would be greater if they had a natural urge to hunt people. Instead, they avoid humans and won’t attack unless they feel threatened.
While attacks are very rare, living in cat country does require Mundsies to be knowledgeable and take steps not to artificially attract mountain lions into the Park.
Living with Mountain Lions
Safety tips for walking and hiking:
Be alert and walk with a companion between dusk and dawn.
Make noise and carry an air horn.
Keep children close and always keep pets on a leash.
Cabin safety tips:
Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors, especially between dusk and dawn. Talk with your children about mountain lions and teach them what to do if they encounter one.
Keep dogs, cats, and other domestic animals indoors or in a secure enclosure. If pets are kept outdoors overnight, ensure the enclosure has a sturdy roof. Do not let your pets run free.
Trim landscaping around your cabin. Remove dense, low-lying vegetation that can provide good hiding places for mountain lions and coyotes, especially around children’s play areas. Keeping landscaping away from your home not only removes hiding spots for wildlife but also keeps your cabin firewise.
It is important to keep wildlife wild. Do not feed wild animals and do not feed your pets outdoors. By feeding deer, javelina, or other wildlife in your yard, you may inadvertently attract mountain lions and other wild predators, which prey upon them.
Properly close trash cans so trash and food do not spill into our streets and attract animals.
If You Encounter a Mountain Lion
Never approach or corner a mountain lion (or any wild animal).
If you encounter a mountain lion, STOP. DO NOT RUN. You can’t outrun them, so don’t even try.
Pick up small children – picking them up will both protect them and keep them from panicking. If you can, remain facing the Mountain Lion and maintain eye contact as you pick up your children.
Slowly back away and allow the cat room and time to move on.
Stand tall. Look bigger by opening your coat or raising your arms. Slowly wave your arms and speak firmly and loudly. Mountain lions are opportunistic hunters and most likely don’t want to fight.
In the rare event of an attack, fight back. Try to remain standing and face the animal and fight back with anything you can, such as sticks, rocks, hiking pole, or your fists. Following these tips will help keep you safe the next time you are outdoors in mountain lion habitat.
What happened to the mother and her cubs roaming Munds Park?
Game and Fish were notified of a mother and her cubs in Munds Park. The cubs were even spotted in a Mundsies backyard. Now that’s cool and scary!
I spoke with Tom Cadden, Public Information Officer for Game and Fish, and he was aware of the mother and her cubs. He said they believe she was the same mountain lion they had been tracking for a couple of years. He further explained that she is not showing any signs of aggression toward humans or behaving unusually, and they have no plans to relocate her. Their only objective at this time is to educate the public.
Mountain lion removal is usually a last resort. They are territorial and often return to the area of capture post-relocation. Further, because of their territoriality, conflict may occur with another mountain lion in the release area and often ends in the severe injury or death of one or both mountain lions.
The future of Mountain Lions
Mountain lions used to be found throughout the United States but are now only found in 15 western states, including Arizona.
Mountain lions live a short 13 years in the wild—If they reach old age. Today, few lions live a natural lifespan. It’s a difficult life, full of lethal challenges: even when the lion avoids humans.
They are shot for recreation, for sport, and for trophies. They are shot when a rancher’s livestock is lost and when pets disappear. They are shot when people are afraid.
So far, Arizona is blessed with sustainable populations of mountain lions. Let’s keep it that way and act accordingly.
To report a mountain lion sighting call Game and Fish at 623-236-7201.