An 18-year-old man was injured Wednesday as he and a female hiking companion fled from a mountain lion on a trail at Catalina State Park north of Tucson, wildlife officials said.
“The lion did not attack them,” said Mark Hart, spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “But they felt threatened by the animal’s action and felt they needed to leave the area posthaste. The man slipped and fell down a slope as they were leaving the area quickly.”
Nick Nasca and Melanie Vibrat of Oro Valley were the two hikers involved in the incident.
Nasca sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the fall and was taken to a hospital for treatment, Hart said.
The incident took place around 7:30 a.m. at Romero Pools on the Romero Canyon Trail in the park, Hart said.
“As they came up to Romero Pools, they observed a mountain lion watching them from about 25 feet away,” he said. “They started to back up and walk away after they snapped a photo of the lion. As they were moving away, it moved closer to them” — prompting their hurried escape and the man’s fall.
Hart said wildlife officers plan to interview the couple more extensively in an effort to learn more about the nature of the encounter.
“It wasn’t a neutral encounter, but it was not an attack,” Hart said. “The question is whether the mountain lion was stalking them in a predatory manner, or was it just curious about them and coming closer because of that.”
He said there are no immediate plans to try to find or remove the adult lion until more is learned about the encounter.
“Even if the lion needed to be removed, it would be very hard,” Hart said. “It’s very hot, and it’s difficult to track a lion in these conditions.”