Beware of potentially dangerous wildlife in mountains and canyons near Tucson over Memorial Day weekend.
That’s the warning from the Arizona Game and Fish Department after reports of three close encounters with bears in the Mount Lemmon area and multiple mountain lion sightings in and around Sabino Canyon.
A bear peered into an occupied cabin Friday near Summerhaven, and another bear took backpacks containing food from a camp Thursday and Friday near where the Arizona Trail intersects the Red Ridge Trail in the Catalina Mountains, said Mark Hart, spokesman for Game and Fish. He said the campers were away when the bear entered the camp.
“Those bears have clearly begun to associate the presence of people with food,” said Raul Vega, regional supervisor of Game and Fish in Tucson. “We want campers to be especially bear aware this weekend.”
Food should be stored in locking “bear boxes” provided in campgrounds, and never taken into tents overnight, Vega said. Campers should wash up and change after preparing food, as bears have a keen sense of smell.
Hart said no campgrounds or trails have been closed as a result of the bear encounters.
“But an area of concern is that area where the Arizona Trail intersects the Red Ridge Trail,” he said. “Although the trail isn’t closed, we’ve posted signage up there to let people know that there has been high bear activity.”
MOUNTAIN LION SIGHTINGS
Hikers also should be aware of relatively high mountain lion activity recently in lower Sabino Canyon and surrounding residential areas, officials said.
“One person took a photo of a lion near one of the bridges in the canyon,” Hart said. “The lion in that photo is in a fairly menacing pose.”
Vega added, “If you’ve never seen a mountain lion, that doesn’t mean one hasn’t seen you. If you do see one nearby, don’t stop to take a photo or move closer to get a better look. Get big, and try to scare it off.”
WHAT TO DO
Wildlife officials offered this advice:
“If bears or mountain lions are seen from a distance, hikers should change their route to avoid contact. If approached by either, discourage contact by standing upright, waving arms overhead, making loud noises, maintaining direct eye contact, throwing objects on hand, and giving the animal an opportunity to leave the area.
“If it does not leave, stay calm, face the animal, and slowly back away. Never run or play dead, and fight back if attacked.”