The mountain lion occurs throughout 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. In Arizona, mountain lions are widely distributed and are expanding into regions where they were once rare. In general, the distribution of mountain lions in Arizona corresponds with the distribution of its major prey species, deer.
Learn About Mountain Lions in Arizona – FAQ [PDF]
Understanding Mountain Lion Management in Arizona — The facts about Arizona’s robust and expanding mountain lion population
Video: Mountain Lions in Arizona
Living with Mountain Lions
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 reporting requirement was instituted by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Reported data indicates that mountain lion harvests gradually increased over time but have remained fairly consistent over the past 20 years and range between 250 and 350 animals per year, of which approximately 9-13 percent are taken for livestock depredation incidents. Spotted kittens and females accompanied by spotted kittens are protected by state statutes, and reports of any illegal harvest are investigated thoroughly by wildlife managers.
The hunting season in Arizona allows unlimited tags with a bag limit of one mountain lion per hunter per year. In limited portions of some units, bag limits have been increased for the purpose of management, research, or protecting prey species of concern. Beginning in 2018, this management approach will be removed and a bag limit of one mountain lion per hunter per year will apply statewide.
Since 2006, mountain lion hunters are required to have their mountain lion physically inspected by the Arizona Game and Fish Department for identification of age and sex of the animal and collection of important biological information. Wildlife managers use these data to closely monitor harvest and ensure a sustainable population. In 2007, the hunt season was shortened from yearlong to 9-months with a closure from June through August. In 2012, the hunt season was again extended to yearlong but, beginning in 2018, the season will once more be closed during the summer months when research shows that mountain lion births are at their peak.
The department has used a zone management approach since 2011, managing mountain lions using two different zones; Standard Management and Minimal Occurrence. Management objectives in each zone was based on the historical density and occurrence data for mountain lions and their prey populations.
The majority of the state was included in the Standard Management Zone where both prey species and mountain lions occur at higher densities. In the Minimal Occurrence Zone, mainly the southwestern portion of Arizona, mountain lions were managed for lower numbers based on historically low densities of mountain lions and their prey. To maintain a smaller mountain lion population in those parts of the state, bag limits were increased to 3 with daylong hunting hours. Recognizing that this approach was ineffective at influencing harvest, the Minimal Occurrence Zone and increased bag limit was removed from the 2017–18 hunt season.
Although a zone management approach will still be used, beginning with the 2018 season Arizona will be divided into Mountain Lion Management Zones with harvest thresholds that will close the mountain lion season in a particular zone when a predetermined number of mountain lions have been harvested in that zone. A management zone will consist of a single unit or grouping of biologically similar units that will distribute harvest more evenly across the state and allow for better management of regional mountain lion populations.
Adult female harvest is monitored in management zones throughout the state and managed to keep adult female harvest less than 35 percent of the total take in each zone. Female harvest limits or season closures are established if the adult female harvest exceeds 35 percent in a zone. Adult female harvest has never exceeded 35 percent in any zone since implementation in 2011. Beginning with the 2018 mountain lion season, adult female harvest will be managed to not exceed 25 percent of the total mountain lion harvest.
In summary, recent management changes adopted by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and were implemented with the 2017-18 mountain lion season or will be implemented with the 2018-23 mountain lion season include:
- Removal of multiple bag limits
- Removal of minimal occurrence zone
- Removal of daylong hunting hours
- Summer season closure
- Mountain lion management zones with harvest thresholds
- Decrease adult female harvest threshold to 25%
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 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. 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. Males and females are highly territorial and often kill other mountain lions found in their territory.
Young Appear: Year Round, with a peak in summer months
Average Number of Young: 3, born with black spots that disappear with age
Range: 10-150 miles, with males ranging further
Live Weight: 75-150 pounds, with males being larger
Predators: Practically none
Provided in response to a July 19, 2017 request
PRR #17-39 Response Letter 9-29-2017
PRR #17-39 Attachment – Depredation Reports 2010-2017
PRR #17-39 Attachment – Human-Wildlife Interaction Data for BC_ML_JAG
PRR #17-39 Attachment – Special Licenses and Scientific Collecting Permits part 1 of 3
PRR #17-39 Attachment – Special Licenses and Scientific Collecting Permits part 2 of 3
PRR #17-39 Attachment – Special Licenses and Scientific Collecting Permits part 3 of 3