Three mountain lions were killed overnight by Arizona Game and Fish Department officials after it was confirmed that they had eaten human remains found near a hiking trail north is from Tucson, the agency announced on Wednesday.
The Remnants were discovered Monday by the Pima Canyon Trail in the Catalina Mountains, forcing the closure of the trail Tuesday as investigating authorities, according to the sheriff’s department Pima County. The individual has not been identified and the trail is closed until further notice, the sheriff’s office said on Tuesday.
Based on photographs, tracks and traces of mountain lions, among other evidence, it was clear that they were eating the remains, said Tucson Game and Fish spokesman Mark Hart. Officials do not believe the lions killed the person whose remains were found.
“Lions that eat human remains are not normal … they generally prefer live prey,” said Hart. “Research shows that if they eat human remains, they are more likely to attack humans in the future.”
“Research shows that if they eat human remains, they are more likely to attack humans in the future.”
Tucson Game and Fish spokesperson Mark Hart
Among the factors influencing the decision to shoot the lions, officials said the three men showed no fear repeatedly when seen by the officers who responded, Hart said.
In addition, the remains were found about 50 meters from the hiking trail, which is one of the most popular in the Tucson area, and near homes, he said. Pima Canyon Trail is northeast of Tucson and just east of the Oro Valley in the Catalina Mountains.
Typically, mountain lions are shy, elusive and are not seen by people, according to the Arizona Game and Fish website. They feed mainly on deer, as well as javelina, bighorn sheep, elk, small mammals and sometimes livestock and pets, the website says.
Although an autopsy has not yet been performed on the remains, Hart says they do not believe the lions attacked and killed the person.
There are about 2,000 to 2,700 mountain lions across the state, with no indication of a declining population, according to Game and Fish.
James Allerton, spokesman for the Pima County Sheriff, said Wednesday that no new information was available and that the investigation was underway.