Three mountain lions have been killed after they were deemed responsible for a string of pet deaths in Arizona.
Arizona Game & Fish (AZGFD) said in a statement that the trio of lions were all thought to be involved in killing several dogs in a neighborhood in the city of Prescott over the past few weeks. The three lions, and one other still at large, were also spotted being aggressive to residents in the area.
The decision was taken to euthanize the lions after a man reported the predators had attacked his dog and begun acting aggressively toward him.
There are an estimated 2,000 to 2,700 mountain lions living in Arizona, mainly in the mountains and rocky hills. The predators do not usually hunt humans, but they can occasionally act aggressively. Authorities do not take any chances with mountain lions that consistently display this type of behavior.
Officials said in a statement that, as the lions have been viewed in close proximity to homes and residents, it is clear they are “less fearful of people.” This could explain the animals’ “aggressive or unacceptable behavior.” For this reason, the mountain lions have been deemed a public safety threat.
One lion killed on May 21 was a female estimated to be between 3 or 5 years old. The other two—killed on May 23 and 24—may have been the female’s offspring. A hunt is still underway for the fourth mountain lion, AZGFD reported.
Relocation was not an option for this lions, the AZGFD added. “These are never easy decisions on our part,” Karen Klima, AZGFD regional supervisor, said in a press release. “As wildlife biologists, we dedicate our careers to managing for healthy and robust wildlife populations, and the last thing we want to do is put an animal down. But public safety is our top priority, and this situation had risen to a level where there was a risk to the community and we had to act.”
It is not certain what causes some mountain lions to become more aggressive than others, but it is more likely if they have been fed by humans. The predators can become used to an easy meal, and become bolder in approaching people.
The AZGFD noted that, in March this year, a mountain lion attacked a man who had been camping along Salt River. The man survived, but the strong predators do have the potential to kill humans.
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