Mountain Lion

A mountain lion perches on a wall in Saddlebrooke in this screen grab.

In the film comedy “Ideal Home” a gay couple living in Santa Fe suddenly find themselves caring for a 10-year-old grandson of one of them who shows up at their door. The couple, played by Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd, argue about their ability to care for a child. Rudd’s character insists “We can’t care for a child. We couldn’t even care for that Yorkie you got. It’s a good thing that coyote took him off our hands.”

That quote is paraphrased, but it was a funny, albeit dark, joke that anyone who lives in the Southwest with pets gets. (I apologize to any Yorkie owners who may be offended.)

This week we published photos and video shot of a mountain lion roaming a Saddlebrooke neighborhood. The beautiful animal was walking along a wall between homes in the southern Pinal County retirement community near the Catalina Mountains.

My aunt and uncle used to live in Saddlebrooke and would often send me photos of bobcats they would see camped out on the wall in their backyard.

These predators were probably scouting the neighborhood for easy domestic prey, like small dogs. And there is no better place to find small dogs than in an Arizona retirement community.

My brother lives in a semi-retirement community on the east side of Tucson where packs of brazen coyotes roam the area. They are known to jump walls and snatch small pets. My brother told me about one neighbor who was out walking his dog, and a coyote snuck up behind him and snatched the dog, leash and all, right under his nose.

In one Tucson neighborhood the coyotes had become such a nuisance that Arizona Game and Fish officials planned to shoot them with paint guns to drive them off. Officials reported that other efforts by residents have helped control the problem.

In the West, suburban communities have become the “water holes” of old for wildlife. The fact that we are in a long-term drought has magnified the effect of our suburban eco-systems. Wildlife are attracted to the greenery and automatic sprinkler systems throughout a community, and then the predators follow.

In Casa Grande there have been some postings on social media of a mountain lion killing a donkey, but we haven’t been able to confirm that. We are a haven for birds and bunnies, which means our predator population threat mostly comes from the sky. In my neighborhood I regularly see quail moving from yard to yard, using the adjoining concrete block walls like an interstate transit system. The doves roost in the trees, dumping on my lawn furniture and any other objects they see fit to whitewash.

So I welcome the occasional hawk in the yard exercising Mother Nature’s population control and maintaining a healthy ecosystem and clean lawn chairs.

The Saddlebrooke mountain lion, which has visited the subdivision at least three times (I think that means he will be getting a callback from a Realtor), presented a teachable moment for Game and Fish. Wildlife officials visited the community to talk to residents and hand out brochures on how to act around mountain lions.

Wildlife officials won’t kill the animal unless it acts in a threatening manner to people, which hasn’t been the case. When encountering a mountain lion, people are told to remain calm, don’t run, wave their arms and back away slowly. Most often the animal will flee.

Living with wildlife is part of living in the West. Keeping pets indoors and just being aware that predators are around is important.

I was hiking in the Tortolita Mountains near Dove Mountain Resort when the trail crossed the golf course. There was a gate to gain access to the golf course and on it was a warning sign. It read: “Please close the gate. The mountain lions are not allowed on the course.”

Yes, that’s what we call an Arizona hazard.

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You can reach Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.

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