Mountain Lions

Artist sketch of mountain lion head

Frequently Asked Questions about Mountain Lions

Graphic: Lion track compared to a dog trackAre there mountain lions on the Coronado National Forest?

Yes. Mountain lions range from the Straight of Magellan in South America to the Canadian Yukon. Recent sightings include lower Sabino Canyon, Bear Canyon, and nearby residential neighborhoods.


What do mountain lions look like?

Adults range from 6-9 feet in length and weigh between 80-275 lbs. They are solid in color, ranging from pale brown to tawny. Tails are 2-3 feet long. Their heads are relatively small compared to their bodies. Ears are short and rounded with dark backs. Legs are long and heavy with large feet. Juvenile cats may be buff-colored with dark spots.

What should I do if I see a mountain lion?

  • Do NOT approach the cat.
  • Do NOT run past or from a cat as it may trigger their chase instinct.
  • Do NOT bend over or crouch down. If you pick up small children with you, do so without bending over or turning away.
  • Make yourself appear larger and more aggressive. Open your jacket, raise your arms, and throw rocks or sticks to discourage predatory behavior. Speak loudly and slowly.
  • Back away slowly. Do NOT run.
  • REPORT the sighting immediately to Forest Service or Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists.

What should I do if I'm attacked by a mountain lion?

  • Fight back with whatever you have at hand without turning your back. You will be fighting for your life.
  • Try to remain standing to protect your head and neck. Do NOT play dead.

How can I avoid a potential attack by a mountain lion?

  • Always hike or jog with a companion.
  • Avoid areas and times cats are likely to be most active: dawn, dusk and during evening hours.

Mountain Lion walking through desert scrubWhere are mountain lions likely to be?

  • Desert mountain areas with broken terrain. Cliffs and steep slopes are favorite vantage points for cats where they can easily pounce on prey from above.
  • Cats also conceal themselves in brushy areas where they can rush prey then drag their kill back into a protected area.

Why would a mountain lion attack a human?

Cougars are predators. They may not always discern "animals" from "humans" as prey. Although they kill for food, not all attacks are triggered by hunger. Big cats are opportunistic. Their predatory instincts are very strong and since they have no natural predators in the wild, they may not be easily spooked.


Is "mountain lion" the same as "cougar?"

Yes. Mountain lion, cougar, puma, catamount and panther are names for Felis concolor.


What do mountain lions eat?

Depending upon the area and species present, they most frequently eat deer, cattle, javalina, rabbits, rodents and desert bighorn sheep. In residential areas, they also have been known to prey on pet dogs and cats.

Mountain Lion

What time of day are mountain lions most active?

Dawn, dusk and evening hours are the hours when cougars are most active, but given the opportunity to bring down prey, they will do so during daylight hours, too.


Are mountain lions powerful?

Yes. These big cats are solid muscle, can leap up to 20 feet and outrun deer for short distances. They are excellent climbers and jumpers, and can swim when necessary. An adult male can travel up to 25 miles in a single night.


How do I report a mountain lion sighting?

  • Sabino Canyon Visitor Center front desk 749-8700 (M-F 8am-4:30pm) (Sat & Sun 8:30am-4:30pm)
  • Arizona Game & Fish Department (520) 628-5376
  • Coronado National Forest (520) 388-8300 (M-F 8am-4:30pm)