The mountain lion occurs only in the western hemisphere and has one of the most extensive ranges of any land mammal, from the Straights of Magellan in South America to the Canadian Yukon. The major reduction in mountain lion distribution has come as a result of its extirpation from areas of historic range in the eastern United States and Canada. In Arizona, mountain lions are absent only from the areas heavily impacted by human development. In general, the distribution of mountain lions in Arizona corresponds with the distribution of its major prey species, deer.
Mountain lions breed at any time of the year with the peak period for kitten births occurring in the summer. Litters average three kittens. Young remain with the mother for approximately 18 months learning the skills necessary to survive independently. Juvenile males tend to disperse much longer distances than juvenile females. Mountain lions are solitary animals with the exception of females with kittens or breeding pairs.
Deer, both whitetail and mule, are the primary prey for mountain lions in Arizona, although they will also prey on javelina, bighorn sheep, small mammals and livestock. The presence of mountain lions can be detected by tracks, scat, scrapes (scratches in the ground) or kills.
Mountain lions were classified as a "predatory animal" by the territorial legislature in 1919 and were subject to a bounty of $50 dollars. This status continued until 1970 when the mountain lion was classified as a big game animal, and a tag was required to hunt one. In 1981, a mandatory checkout procedure and other reporting requirements were instituted by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Data from the reporting information indicates that lion harvests have gradually increased over time and range between 250 and 350 animals per year, of which approximately 12 percent are taken by predator control agents.
The hunting season in Arizona allows unlimited tags with a bag limit of one mountain lion per hunter per year. Occasionally, bag limits are increased in limited areas for the purpose of management or research.
As of 2006, lion hunters are required to present their lion to the Arizona Game and Fish Department for inspection. In 2007, the hunt season was shortened from year-long to being closed from June through August. In 2012, the hunt season was again extended to year long.
Mountain lions are stalk and ambush predators that hunt primarily at night and rely on ambush to kill their prey. They prefer to stalk from above, using rock ledges and steep terrain. Mountain lions are specialized top predators and consequently do not normally exist in high concentrations. Males and females are highly territorial and often kill other lions found in their territory. Mountain lions kill a large prey approximately once every six to 12 days. Uneaten portions of a kill are hidden or covered with leaves, dirt or other debris. An entire deer can be consumed by an adult mountain lion in two nights.
Young Appear: Year Round, with a peak in summer months
Average Number of Young: 3, born with black spots that disappear with age
Live Weight:75-150 pounds, with males being larger
Predators: Practically none