The SaddleBrooke Nature Club met on March 14 at the DesertView Theater. The speakers were Cheryl Shearer and Gordon Nuttall. Cheryl is a Sabino Canyon volunteer naturalist and facilitates advanced training for naturalists and serves as the Sabino Canyon librarian.
Previously, she was an Indiana Master Naturalist. Gordon is a member of his HOA’s Conservation and Land Management Committee. Previously, he was the VP of the land Stewardship Advisory Board for Larimer County, Colo. Both Cheryl and Gordon are active members of the Arizona Mountain Lion Foundation educational team.
Some of the information imparted includes:
Mountain lions (also known as cougars) are solitary animals, except for mating times and the time mountain lion mothers spend with their kittens. Young mountain lions are dependent on their mothers for 12 to 18 months as the young learn to hunt for themselves. The diet is mainly deer, although when this source of food is scarce, smaller and larger animals (as big as elk) are eaten. Mountain lions have large territories, from about 25 to 400 square miles.
The value of these animals is their ability to control the deer population, which, in turn, protects the plants that deer devour. These plants provide not only cover for the mountain lions themselves but also for many small animals, including many bird species. The plants help hold water in the soil and also prevent erosion of the banks of rivers and streams.
Each male mountain lion eats about 39 deer per year. There are perhaps as many as 2,700 mountain lions in Arizona, so the deer population is therefore large enough to sustain this number. However, this number may be an overestimate because of those things that endanger mountain lions, such as drought, wildfires, road kills, loss of the ability to extend territory because of roads and buildings, and hunting. Hunting is done with guides, dogs, and provided transportation. The Mountain Lion Foundation feels that the hunting season is too long and that too many females are killed, including some that are still caring for their kittens.
To decrease the danger of a mountain lion-human confrontation, watch for a hunched stance, tail twitching, and an intense stare directly at you. If confronted, make yourself appear as big as possible, make noise, maintain eye contact, and back away slowly. If attacked, fight back.