Wildlife officials in Arizona killed three mountain lions after the lions ate human remains in a popular hiking area. The lions weren’t suspected of killing any humans, however, lions that scavenge human remains are believed to become more likely to attack humans as a result.
The local sheriffs in Pima County located the human remains early last week and captured the lions, which were put down last Wednesday. They also closed the trail to investigate the scene.
“Mountain lions are not routinely scavengers,” said Raul Vega, a regional supervisor with the Arizona Department of Game and Fish to KGUN. “A mountain lion eating human remains is abnormal behavior. Those that do are more likely to attack a human being in the future.”
“We do not believe the lion attacked the individual who died there,” said Mark Hart to KGUN’s Craig Smith. “An autopsy will tell us more. But our belief is they were eating the human remains after the fact.”
Smith asked the wildlife officials if it was possible to relocate the lions instead of putting them down.
“No, because when you move a mountain lion in this part of the world, you’re just going to put it into another lion’s territory, they’re very territorial and will fight to the death over a piece of real estate,” Hart explained.
According to Vega, the lions were not afraid of humans, choosing to eat the remains within 50 yards from the trail, all in sight of human housing. They also showed no fear of the officers.
“The animal activity is nothing new,” said local Tom Goslin. “We see it in the neighborhood all the time. I don’t know of anyone or anyone’s pet that has actually been harmed by it.”
Officials scheduled an autopsy for the human remains and preserved the lions’ bodies if a necropsy is further warranted. The three lions included one mature lion and two yearlings.
Arizona wildlife officials recommend installing measures to keep pets and livestock safe from the lions’ predation, and even discouraging wild animals such as rabbits, javelina and deer from trailing near human habitats in order to deter lion activity.
Mountain lions are also attracted to water sources like pets’ water bowls, swimming pools, and fountains. They may also shelter in unused sheds and other buildings.