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Sat, Oct. 19

A cougar in Clarkdale<br><i>Clarkdale-Jerome School warns parents</i>

An early bird surprised a cougar while walking her dog near the Clarkdale-Jerome School Friday.

The mountain lion was sighted at 6:30 a.m. pawing through the trash near the soccer field at Clarkdale-Jerome School, located at 1615 Main St. and was scared off by the unidentified woman as she shouted.

According to school Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor, the citizen had sighted the lion, then called the school.

"A woman walking her dog near the soccer field called the office and said she had spotted a mountain lion," she said. "She made some noise and the lion ran off."

Fleenor said school officials reported the cougar sighting to Arizona Game & Fish officers who then suggested that the school send a notice home to parents of students warning of the potential of a mountain lion in the area.

"We haven't had mountain lions in the area of the school since I can remember," Fleenor. "None of my colleagues said they knew of any either."

She added that the soccer field is not located near the school buildings and students should stay near the buildings and be aware that the potential for a meeting with a cougar is a possibility.

"We first called the police and they told us to file a report the Game and Fish, so we did," Fleenor added. "[Arizona Game & Fish] suggested we send home the notice to parents."

She added that though the soccer field is situated away from the school buildings, it does not mean a cougar will not venture near them.

The notice warns parents to be aware of the potential for a mountain lion in the area and that students should stay near the school buildings.

Game and Fish officers report that cougars typically hunt early in the morning and parents and students should exercise caution.

Zen Mocarski is the public information officer for Arizona Game & Fish Department in Kingman.

He said that the only report he is aware of is one from about two weeks ago.

"We had a report from Jerome of a lion eating a house cat," he said. "That was about 10 days ago and there is no way of knowing if this is the same lion or not."

He said Jerome is prime mountain lion habitat and sightings are somewhat common and, "generally, cougars hunt early in morning so parents and students need to be cautious."

According to Mocarski, all reports are treated as official sightings and the school was prudent in its precautionary measure.

However, he added, "The report was absent of vital information and we don't have the name of the original reporting party and that makes it difficult for us to do a thorough investigation."

Mocarski said that it is important that the person who had originally sighted the cougar to contact Arizona Game & Fish officers.

According to U. S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, cougars can be from 5 feet to 8 feet in length from nose to tail and can weigh from 80 pounds to 170 pounds.

Mountain lions, also called cougar, puma and panthers, are solitary animals that generally hunt at dawn and dusk, but are active by day in areas undisturbed by man.

The cougar's diet consists mainly of deer, rabbit, javalina and most wild animals and includes house pets.

Pumas can live up to 18 years and inhabit North and South America from southern Canada to the western states and is found over a wider range than any other mammal in the western hemisphere, except for man.

Cougars are solitary animals and tend to live in remote country and are seldom seen by humans. They hunt their prey by stealth and ambush. Their method of killing is usually with a powerful bite at the base of the skull, breaking the neck.

U. S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services reports further, that a mountain lion requires 8 to 10 pounds of meat per day to survive.

Recently, cougars have been sighted in and near Western towns, which indicates either an increase in lions or a limited prey base forcing the cats to come closer to man in search for food. And this carries the potential for attacks on humans.

Citizens who spot a mountain lions are urged to contact Arizona Game & Fish Department (928) 692 7700.

For more information on the cougar, go on-line to http://www.azgfd.com

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