Lions And Cougars And Pumas, Oh My!

Mountain Lion

By Smiling Dog Landscapes

Mountain Lions, also known as cougars or pumas are the top level predator found in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish estimates that state wide there are 2,500 to 3,500 of these big cats existing in our wild areas. Unfortunately, habitat degradation, drought and human expansion have all brought people and cougars more and more into conflict. 

Gold Canyon is no exception to this human / cougar interaction and there have been numerous lion sightings. We have a large deer population in our area and where there are deer there are cougars. 

Some interesting facts about these big cats include: 

  • A male lion can weigh up to 145 lbs. 
  • Adult lions are tawny or grayish brown with a 3 foot black tipped tail. 
  • Lions primarily feed on deer but will also take Javelina, big horn sheep, rabbits and many other small animals including domestic dogs and cats. 
  • Lions Hunt by ambush and are very stealthy. 
  • The cat has a small heart and lungs for its size so while it can out run a deer, the cougar lacks endurance for any chase over 300 yards. 
  • Lions can have a 25 square mile range although human encroachment has shrunk their territory in many areas. 
  • Cougar tracks are round, 3 to 4 inches in diameter with all four toes distinct and no claws showing as claws are retracted. 
  • A lion can jump 20 feet high and 40 feet horizontally in a single bound’ 

Since we have had rumors of one of these big cats seen in Gold Canyon recently I would like to pass on some safety tips, courtesy of AZ Game and Fish; 

  • Do not approach a lion, give it a way out. 
  • Do not run. Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. 
  • Protect small children so they won’t panic and run. 
  • Stay calm and speak loudly and firmly. 
  • Appear larger, raise your arms and wave them slowly, throw stones, branches or anything that you can reach without crouching down or turning your back. The idea is to convince the lion that you may be a danger to it. 
  • Slowly back away from the area. 
  • Fight back if attacked: survivors have successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, and bare hands. 

Learn more about Mountain Lions

Arizona Game and Fish Department provides in-depth information about Mountain Lions, habitats, and laws.
Learn more