TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Sun, Sept. 15

A Cougar in Cottonwood<br><i>Wayward panther surprises Cottonwood Village employee</i>

AZ Game & Fish contributed photo

A Cottonwood Village employee may have spotted a cougar on Sixth Street and Mingus Avenue on Sept. 22.

"When I stood up a saw something move on a staircase about 50 feet away," she said. "It started toward me and I saw a really long tail. Then I ran."

Steadman said that she made it back inside and looked out of the window to see a cougar walk past.

"At first, I thought it was a dog or something, but that tail!"

Cottonwood police responded and according to Lt. Jack Stapleton, officers were only able to see a large yellow house cat in the area.

"Our officers responded to 6th and Mingus and spoke to an individual," he said. "We can't confirm a sighting because our officers didn't see a cougar."

But Steadman is convinced what she saw was no ordinary housecat.

Steadman is a certified nurses assistant and works in the assisted living department at Cottonwood Village and has been with the company for almost three years.

"I've never seen one in the wild before, but I know what I saw," she said. "It made no noise and I saw that face. I'm sure glad I ran back inside."

Arizona Game & Fish Public Information Office Zen Mocarski said that what Steadman saw may or may not have been a mountain lion.

"Arizona is mountain lion country and a sighting, especially in the early morning, wouldn't be that unusual," he said.

According to Mocarski, there has been no official report filed on this latest sighting in Cottonwood.

He said that there is a wash area that runs near the facility and the heavy rains on Sept. 20 might have had something to do with the panther appearing in the area.

Nancy Weber is the executive director at Cottonwood Village for more than four years.

She said that the parking lot is well lighted and that there has not been a sighting of wild animals in the area before.

"Our residents usually walk in the daylight and if they are concerned about animals they can walk in pairs," she said. "We believe that [Steadman] saw something, but we aren't sure what."

She said that residents should be aware, but not change their lifestyle.

Weber said that it is important that people realize that the possibility of meeting an animal does exist even though it's rare. Mocarski concurs.

"The likelihood that a mountain lion would re-appear in that area, if indeed it had, is very remote and people should not be alarmed, but aware."

He said that if a mountain lion had appeared, it may have been disturbed from its habitat, and was probably alarmed at being in the city in such close proximity to humans, and, "Mountain lions usually want nothing to do with humans."

He added that brochures were sent to the facility illustrating the facts of living with wildlife.

Game & Fish officials said that if the facility is adjacent to open space, it is not surprising that a cougar would appear there.

"A nearby wash may have been running with water and a mountain lion may have been using it as a corridor," said Mocarski. "It may have just wound up near this facility."

He added that mountain lions have an instinctive fear of humans and the only concern people should have is if the cougar feels threatened or surprised.

"Timeliness is essential in reporting a sighting," Mocarski added. "We treat all reports as genuine and investigate each one."

He added that usually, Game & Fish wildlife managers monitor apparent behavior of animals near civilized areas.

"We would like to see physical signs of particular animal because we need to document sightings," he said.

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.

The largest predatory animal in Northern Arizona, mountain lions, also called cougar, puma and panther, 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 are 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.

Steadman said she will be on the lookout for big cats on her graveyard shift.

"It made no noise and that tale came up as it was making its way toward me," she said. "I've never been so close to one in my life."

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 www.azgfd.com.

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