GC VILLAGE — A series of mountain lion sightings have been occurring recently in the Mather Campground-Trailer Village area.
Elaine Leslie, Grand Canyon National Park wildlife biologist, said there have been mountain lion observations coming in on a daily basis. Leslie said the mountain lions may be in the area feeding on deer or unrestrained pets.
"There are a lot of pets roaming around," Leslie said. "The loose and feral situation is out of control."
National Park Service officials are citing individuals for not restraining pets, Leslie said. Pets should not left behind at home or a campsite unattended, they should be put inside, she said. Another precaution to take would be to not leave pet food outside.
NPS officials have intensified their catching of pets. They are taken to Grand Canyon Kennel where they stay for three days before being transported to Flagstaff.
Leslie believes that if residents and visitors would obey the pet restraint policies, then there would be little concern about mountain lions in the village area.
There was a mountain lion death last week when a motorist hit one of the animals on Desert View Drive.
"I’m waiting to find out if this animal is the one we’ve been studying for two years, hopefully it’s not but it wouldn’t surprise me," Leslie said.
Leslie said wildlife biologists have identified 18 mountain lions in the South Rim area in a non-evasive manner. There are likely many others and an accurate population is not known. The top threat to the lions involves habitat fragmentation, such as roads.
Wildlife biologists were searching for a deer cache last week as a possible attractant for the mountain lions. The search was to concentrate on the Market Plaza Road-Center Road-South Entrance Road area, which includes Mather Campground, Trailer Village and Canyon View Information Plaza.
Besides possible citations involving loose pets, Leslie said action will also be taken against those who tamper with mountain lion traps.
Leslie recommends that residents take action to not attract mountain lions.
o Eliminate attractants — Unsupervised pets outdoors are literally a bait station for lions and exposing smelly foods, like cat or dog food and garbage, or openly-cooked meats can be an attractant.
o Preventative measures — Do not hike, jog or take evening strolls alone. Primary feeding time is shortly after dawn and late afternoon periods.
In the past, there has been a history in various spots around the country of mountain lions attacking lone joggers, hikers and children — and not necessarily on remote trails.
Leslie offers the following recommendations:
o Supervise small children. Keep them close at hand. Do not let them run ahead of you on trails.
o Walk in pairs or groups or take a dog. Leslie said a dog will be alerted to the presence of a mountain lion well before a human.
If a mountain lion is confronted, here’s more advice from Leslie:
o Never approach the animal. Give the lion a chance to escape the situation.
o Never run, stay calm. Do not make yourself look like prey. Hold your ground while maintaining visual contact.
o Make yourself look large and be aggressive. "Wave your arms about, throw objects, demonstrate that you are not prey, but a threat," Leslie said.
o Pick up small children and keep them close at hand.
o If attacked, fight back with everything you’ve got.
Grand Canyon National Park wildlife biologists have been studying mountain lions over the past few years. That special study is a continuing effort.
Leslie urges residents to remember the responsibilities and risks associated with living in a national park.
Anyone who observes mountain lions or their tracks are asked to call the National Park Service dispatch number at 638-7805.