Authorities reopen trail after mountain lions seen eating human remains nearby

Trail reopened after lions seen eating human remains
Updated: Jan. 2, 2020 at 10:00 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Three mountain lions that fed on human remains at the Pima Canyon Trail have been killed.

The mountain lions are not suspected of killing the victim, but state officials said it was too dangerous to let them live.

Mark Hart with the Arizona Game and Fish Department said Wednesday the organization “lethally removed three mountain lions from Pima Canyon overnight."

“We thought the risk was too great and we had to take action," Hart said. “Mountain lions are not routinely scavengers. Mountain lions prefer live prey and they’re very good at killing live prey. And there’s abundant javalina and deer in the Catalina foothills so why it happened in this case, we’re just not sure.”

AZGFD Regional Supervisor Raul Vega said the removal was done to ensure the safety of hikers and residents in the area.

“In addition, they did so 50 yards from a popular hiking trail and within sight of homes, and repeatedly showed no fear of responding officers,” he said. "They were a clear and present danger to public safety.”

The organization’s critical incident response team set a trap for the mountain lions. Hart said there was an adult female and two younger lions, both weighing over 100 pounds which is considered lethal. They seemed to be in good health, but posed too much of a threat by their behavior.

“It’s an indicator in the future that they are likely to attack so our decision was to take those lions out of that area,” Hart said.

Officials said they are confident they got captured and killed the correct lions due to photographic evidence of them near the remains, as well as scat and tracks that matched paw prints found on site.

However, Hart said they can’t do a formal necropsy and DNA test right now because there may be evidence inside the lion that’s relevant to the sheriff’s departments case.

Authorities do not believe the mountain lions killed the person, whose remains were discovered near the trailhead by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department on the evening of Monday, Dec. 30, 2019.

An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday to determine how the person died.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture area was closed Tuesday, Dec. 31 but reopened Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Initially, the department anticipated that the trail would be closed for two weeks.

“We fully support our partnership with Arizona Game and Fish Department and appreciate their efforts to contribute to a safe environment for our visitors,” Deputy Santa Catalina District Ranger Charles Clark said.

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.