Medical examiner: Mountain lions found eating human remains not responsible for person’s death

Autopsy performed on remains found

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - An autopsy on a body which was found at Pima Canyon earlier this week shows the person was likely not killed by mountain lions.

The Pima County Medical Examiner Greg Hess, who performed the autopsy said "we don't have strong beliefs that the mountain lions killed the person."

That backs up what Arizona Game and Fish Department have been saying about the gruesome scene discovered about 50 yards off the trail.

Three mountains lions, a mother and two one-year-old cubs, had eaten a human body.

The autopsy could not determine a cause of death nor could it identify the gender of the remains.

“The body was not in good condition,” Hess said.

He also said he could not determine how long the body had been in the desert before being found by the mountain lions.

That’s part of an investigation being conducted by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department which did not want to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Following a necropsy on the lions, it was determined that at least one of the lions had eaten the remains insuring that officials with game and fish captured and killed the right lions.

The mother’s necropsy was inconclusive but the necropsy on one of the young males determined it had eaten human remains.

A large crowd gathered at the entrance to the Pima Canyon trailhead in northwest Tucson to find out more news about the three mountain lions that were destroyed after eating the remains.

Most were not pleased the mountain lions were killed rather than being relocated.

Others said is has dominated their conversations since they learned about it and agreed there may be other solutions.

"Once they taste that human flesh, I got that, they have to be killed" said Taylor Sitts, from Flagstaff. "I don't agree with them being killed."

But Arizona Game and Fish consulted with national experts on mountain lions before making the final decision.

“I can tell you that the lions tore the clothes off the victim,” Hart said. “That is an indication that they had figured out that a human being clothed is food.”

Game and fish successfully relocated a mountain lion in 2004 but in this case, the situation was different.

The lions had eaten human flesh, which is unusual, so relocating them may not make difference.

Lions can easily travel a hundred miles or more.

“If we found the best place we could put them, there’s always a risk that type of behavior would remain,” Hart said. And if they wandered back into a community “that would be catastrophic.”

Besides, Hart said, there are so many mountain lions in southeastern Arizona that “all the available habitat is occupied.”

Mountain lions are very territorial so relocating one in an area occupied by another would be a problem.

“Males in particular will fight to the death over a piece of turf,” he said.

According to Hart, there are no recorded cases of a person being killed by a mountain lion in Arizona.

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