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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : local February 26, 2015

8/10/2011 10:05:00 PM
Lion killed after climbing into tree on city golf course
Courtesy photo
Donna Michael shot this photo of a mountain lion from inside her home near to the Antelope Hills Golf Course in Prescott Wednesday morning. Game and Fish wildlife officers later put it down.
Courtesy photo
Donna Michael shot this photo of a mountain lion from inside her home near to the Antelope Hills Golf Course in Prescott Wednesday morning. Game and Fish wildlife officers later put it down.
Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - Donna Michael didn't need any coffee to wake up Wednesday morning.

When she opened the kitchen blinds at about 6:15 a.m. after getting up for the day, a mountain lion was looking back at her through the window a few feet away.

"I just pulled it part way up and saw this face in the window staring at me," said Michael, who lives on Resort Way South between the City of Prescott's Antelope Hills Golf Course and the city airport.

Then the lion turned and went back under the bush by the window, she said, possibly to sleep since it was a nocturnal animal.

While some people might jump out of their slippers, Michael said she had a different reaction.

"I just looked at that thing and thought, 'How gorgeous,'" she related. "Just a beautiful, gentle, lovely face."

At the same time, Michael was worried about what could happen shortly when neighbors started coming out to walk their dogs and golfers arrived to tee up.

At around 8:30 a.m., she called a Prescott animal control officer, who told her how to reach the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Wildlife Officer Virginia Gouldsbury arrived shortly.

"I was able to see the lion and could tell that it was a healthy male mountain lion that looked to be about two-and-a-half to three years old," Gouldsbury said in a Game and Fish news release. "When the lion saw me approaching it took off running."

Gouldsbury drove her truck in the direction of the lion's path, but was unable to locate it and believed it had run into the wilds.

But the lion actually ran just down the hill, over a low brick wall, onto the 9th hole fairway of the golf course and up a tree near the wall.

A neighbor spotted the lion in the tree about 16 feet away while reading in her home next to an open patio door, related Eileen Sherrill, who lives on Clubhouse Drive.

Sherrill was walking her 16-pound West Highland white terrier in the immediate vicinity when others outside warned her about the lion.

It turned out the treed lion was in a tree just a few feet off her patio wall.

With the same fears as Michael about the potential for a lion confrontation with neighbors or golfers, Sherrill called animal control, then called Michael, who gave her Gouldsbury's phone number from Gouldsbury's card.

Gouldsbury returned and shot the lion with a tranquilizer dart, but it climbed higher in the tree. She and two other armed wildlife officers stood at the base of the tree to keep the lion from running toward golfers.

They called the Prescott Fire Department for help with a ladder truck to get a better angle on the lion before shooting another dart.

After the lion fell, they took it out of town and killed it.

Game and Fish written protocol directed the decision to put the animal down, said Bob Posey, regional Game and Fish supervisor.

The catamount was aware that people had seen it, yet it continued to linger in a high-use area for people, Posey noted.

"We can't take any chances," Posey said, noting how a woman died last month after a rare bear attack near Pinetop in June. "The liability of handling a dangerous animal and then turning it loose is just too extreme."

The agency does not remove and relocate lions elsewhere, Posey said. Since they are so territorial, that lion is likely to be killed, he said.

The young male might have run up the tree because it was scared and in unfamiliar territory, Posey said. Young males sometimes are searching their own territory to establish.

Both Michael and Sherrill said they have seen bobcats, javelina and coyotes in their relatively isolated subdivision tucked between the golf course and airport on the north edge of the city, but never a lion.

"This one was a new one for me," Sherrill said.

The Prescott region is prime lion habitat. To learn more about lions and preventing dangerous encounters, go online to To report a lion, call 800-352-0700.

Related Stories:
• Letter: Game & Fish needs to help animals
• Letter: Fish and Game department not doing its job
• Letter: Not all lions get death sentence
• Column: Who's in danger, wildlife or us?
• Editorial: Killing of lion raises questions

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2011
Article comment by: Dell Nec

Here is where the stats prove the fear of mountain lions is man-made emotionalism and not based on facts.

According to the AZ Fish & Game, here in Arizona there has been ZERO, I repeat ZERO confirmed mountain lion deaths since 1890, the past 120 years here in AZ. Yet over 327 people have been killed by domestic dogs between 1979 and 1988. This means that your family dog or your neighbor's dog has killed 15 times more people in just 11 years than mountain lions have killed in 120 years.

1979-1988 (11 years) = 327 human deaths caused by domestic dogs

1890-2004 (114 years) = 20 human deaths caused by mountain lions

So that means the dog next door is more deadlier and you should shoot and kill your neighbors dog. Absurd? Of course. But so is the argument that mountain lions need to be killed once they come near humans.

Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2011
Article comment by: @Midroad 3

Sounds like your taking their story to a statewide scenario, rather than the town they are referring.
Also, they mentioned the wildlife crossing a golf course, never did they mention on school grounds.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: Lion Trapper

Obviously anyone who alleges this lion was not displaying fear is totally ignorant of mountain lion behavior. But who amongst is isn't? I mean, if you google "What does a mountain lion do when its scared?" the results are random and unhelpful. The first hit is about a trail runner's fear of mountain lions, and the second is about Freddy Krueger. Perhaps this is where the officials got their information...

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: Midroad 3

The post by “Colorado vs. Arizona!” is typical of the emotional, misinformed reader comments associated with this story.
Sorry to correct you, but the Colorado Division of Wildlife does kill mountain lions and bears when there is a public safety concern.
Here’s an excerpt from a July 26, 2011 article in
“In 2010, wildlife officers killed 80 bears mostly due to hot, dry conditions that forced scores of the animals into urbanized areas in southeastern Colorado. In 2009, officials put down 89 bears when localized forage crop failures, namely a June apple rust, lured the bruins out of the wild and into neighborhoods, particularly in Aspen where about a quarter of that year's euthanizations took place.”
And here’s something from Aug. 4, 2009, on KVDR’s website:
“Wildlife officers shot and killed a mountain lion that wandered onto the grounds of a downtown Durango elementary school Monday. No classes were in session at the time and officials say no children were in danger.”
All wildlife and other law enforcement agencies, state and federal, unfortunately have to sometimes kill animals where there’s a threat to public safety. It’s their job and responsibility, and they’re held accountable for it. There will always be a certain segment of the population that goes emotionally ballistic when an animal is killed, no matter how justifiably, from a human-wildlife conflict. The agencies have a tough job to do, and I’m glad they make the call to err on the side of public safety.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: Agree with Colorado

We have seen mountain lions in our neighborhood and do warn people that we coexist with lots of wildlife. I've seen a beautiful lion lying on a boulder with his paws crossed casually watching the cable guy by his truck from across the road. I agree with the visitor from Colorado. I don't understand why we have to kill everything we fear. Put up signs and let them golf at their own risk.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: Christine Pitcher

Shame, shame..if you don't want wild animals in your backyard..move to Chicago! This is the lazy and ignorant way out. We moved here because it was a different environment from where we came from. Now our goal seems to be to change it...I do not want my money spent on killing animals. Why not call Game and Fish? Isn't this their job?

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: Positively Ridiculous Mindset

What happened to compassion? I agree with many here. This lion could have lived a full life span in a sanctuary or taken to a higher mountain range.
"The agency does not remove and relocate lions elsewhere, Posey said. Since they are so territorial, that lion is likely to be killed, he said." Why not?? It's not that difficult to relocate an animal! If you won't do it find a private company who will! They are out there! This is a tragedy for the mountain lion and for the rest of us who love animals.
What about the Prescott Zoo, they could have possibly taken the lion.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: Colorado vs. Arizona !

I live in Conifer Colorado, I am here bringing my daughter to college. I just had to write a clip on this story!
In Conifer we have lions, lot of them, all over our golf courses. People golf near the passing by lions, never once had a problem with an attack. People and mountain lions coexist, same as black bear.
If our department killed just one of our hundreds of lions, or bear, just because it crossed a golf course, or ran up a tree, our game & fish would be shut down.
Yes, we also have houses on the golf course where animals bump up what !
We have bears, eating out of dumpsters ! What happens here? I bet your game & fish would shoot it !
I'm sorry, this is very distrurbing news !
Your department needs some education.
If they are worried about a lawsuit, put up signs on the course, "potential big game wildlife, play, travel at your own risk.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: someone who knows

I everyone will just wait one minute and research mountain lions as a species, you will learn that mountain lions are a very competitive and very territorial animal. Young mountain lions will often try to strike out looking for their own territory. This often is successful but in this case he chose a habitat that was already inhabited by humans. Usually this isn't a problem, but in this case it was because the animal had no fear of encroaching onto human territory. For that reason alone he was killed. That decision is for the preservation of the necessary separation of wildlife and humans. Yes his face looked peaceful and calm, then when he found prey his face would not change, until his attack then his face would show aggression and this story would take a different tone. He was not a cuddly kitten nor was he a teddy bear, he was a wild animal with the ability to kill very easily. He was not equipped with claws to scratch a post, his claws are to hold or maim his prey so he can use his teeth to kill.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: PETA !

I heard that PETA is contacting the agency and is investigating this case.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: It about money

Game & Fish is all about the people and money, not about the Game, or fish.
They are only out to protect people from animals, and the financial liability of the department.
What ever happened to the animals being protected from people???
Think of them as,
"Animal control/extermination" before you make that phone call !
I believe this whole escapade has woken people up to what happens to healthy animals when you make the call to game & fish.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: Midroad 3

Game and Fish did the right thing in this situation.
If you disagree with the department’s action or policy, that’s your right, but the vitriol expressed here by some people is totally unfair and inappropriate.
I know many of the wildlife managers and biologists with the department. They are outstanding people who are passionate about wildlife – far more, I would suggest, than many of these posters who do nothing more for wildlife than sit at a computer terminal and vent. The Game and Fish folks chose careers dedicated to wildlife conservation work because they want to work toward ensuring that future generations will have wildlife to enjoy.
The rage expressed by some of the critics – calling Game and Fish personnel “murderers” or suggesting the department “likes” to do this type of thing – is based on emotion and ignorance, not fact. Nobody feels worse about having to destroy an animal such as this than the personnel who have to do it. Mountain lions are magnificent animals and important parts of the ecosystem. But they are not rare, and they are top-level predators potentially dangerous to humans. When a mountain lion is hanging around an area of high human use, it is a public safety threat.

The protocol for handling situations such as this was developed after the intense public interest over the Sabino Canyon situation in 2004. Game and Fish worked hand-in-hand with the public in soliciting input and developing the current protocol. Groups as diverse as sportsmen’s groups, the Sierra Club and the Animal Defense League of Arizona participated in its development.BR>Agencies such as Game and Fish are in a tough spot. They have to balance wildlife conservation needs with public safety needs. It’s a hard call, but Game and Fish did the right thing here.

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Article comment by: Reality 101 !

I have lost all respect for ANY government run agency !
I also have no faith in the justice system !
(Just look at the O.J. case, the Johnson baby Gabriel case, Casey Anthony case)
Our whole country needs new reform....and quick!
Nobody has any clue how to properly run any of these organizations.

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: kayla rambin

hmm, wow seems like the widlife people were to busy talking and observing the dog. to worry about the well-being of the wild animal. it couldve been taken to a MOUNTAIN assuming its a MOUNTAIN lion. *just a guess*. but no we are going to help the precious animals into extinction. THANK you game & fish.

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: David Nystrom

I was not born in Arizona. I came to Arizona for the wonderful rural atmosphere, lifestyle and nature. I did not come here to golf or live in a newly formed subdivision. But, all I see are people killing wildlife and bulldozing the land for the next development all in the name of a future influx of people. You kinda of got your priorities mixed, enjoy what you have (including the wildlife) rather than make this great state some developers paradise.

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: We think we are so superior

Just look at this beautiful picture of the mountain lion, then go the news section on here and see 4 mugshots in a row of "human beings", one who is a sexual predator. Better kill him before he steps it up and kills one of his victims. Animals are not the problem here people, humans are. Don't any of you animal haters ever watch the news or read this paper even??? Sex crimes are so prevalent, makes me sick. That lion wouldn't have done anything like that either. But once again, we punish animals and let the humans commit unspeakable acts of cruelty, etc.
And, we are overpopulated too, there needs to be a season on us.

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: Gerald Stricklin

Arizona Game and Fish should hang their collective heads in shame. If indeed it is the Departments policy to impose the death penalty on a dignified wild animal that was simply living within the scope of its natural range, then that policy needs to be abandoned and replaced with one that recognizes the dignity of Arizona's wildlife. Arizona Game and Fish is a semi-opaque agency in the age of transparency. As long as the Department develops such regressive policies in a self perpetuating vacuum then the public will rightfully be disgusted by its actions regarding, and treatment of, the wildlife whose territory has been invaded by humans and our random approach to land use. Policies that result in the execution of animals should be just as transparent as the zoning decisions that are ultimately used to justify such executions. As a society we spend many hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure that convicted murderers are afforded every opportunity to avoid the death penalty yet mid-level bureaucrats are authorized to take the cat out of town and kill it. Maybe we have it backwards.

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: How it is !

It's ashame that "liability" on behalf of humans is a death sentence for wildlife.
People (the controlling agency), are afraid that other people (common folk), will file a lawsuit against them, since they (controlling agency) knows of the lion in the 'Peoples" area.
That is all that this is about !
It just comes down to people and their money, and what gets between those two must be terminated immediately.
There once was a day, when people and animals coexisted !!!!
Those days are over !
I miss those days !

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: Okay Zenon, I'll bite

How many wildlife "nuisance" reports involving MOUNTAIN LIONS have AZG&F received that required absolutely no action?
Curious minds....

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: Yes Ding Dong

Yes - if given the opportunity I would go back in time and abort Hitler, that's why I asked.
I'll assume you are as committed to ending the death penalty and military "actions" as you are abortion.
Somehow, I doubt it.

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: What's next!

Next, Game & fish will relocate the antelope and deer, and dredge the lakes so there exists no feeding resources to support mountain lion in our area !!

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: Anoki Goldfeather

It will never change !
First they run off the native Americans from our land, now the native species from the land for their own greed.
Karma, will and has always been the downfall!
"Never take the bee from the hive"
The nectur will run dry !

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: Oh, Yeah

Call the government -- they shoot people like animals did ya really think they wouldn't kill an animal?

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: Welcome to AZ. Now go home

The incongruity of this situation is hilarious. Lion, on a golf course. A predator, forced to move and/or live among the height of development. Here's a thought for all those who equate wild animals with their precious "Fifi" and "Cuddles" created the problem when you moved into what was once prime wildlife habitat. Either go home, or accept the consequences of your actions of residing in the "human/wildlife interface". I have no doubt many of these are the same people who would denigrate AZ G&F if another person was bitten by a rabid fox or if "Fifi" was a snack for a neighborhood coyote, or if "Cuddles" was hungry because a pack of roving javelinas enjoyed her petfood on the deck. Read "Soul Among Lions" by Harley Shaw to learn more about mountain lions in AZ and Yavapai County.

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011
Article comment by: We think we are so superior

I read/watch/hear about human beings murdering other human beings every single day. I know of one personally. And usually they are done in a barbaric, horrible manner like the person I knew personally.
I was just watching SHOCK WEEK on ID, about 4 "humans" who invaded a couple's home, bound them and put duct tape over their noses and buried them alive- ALIVE~ Gruesome murders like this go on all the time, and most of the time the killers never get the death sentence, just a luxury life in prison with medical benefits, etc. But an innocent animal just shows its beautiful face to someone and gets an instant death penalty.
I'll never have to worry about an animal breaking into my home and slaughtering me like what happened to my friend. So be it if I am killed by an animal in whose territory I am living. Deaths like that are few are far between, why don't we hold the "law" liable for all the deaths caused by humans especially ones that were committed by repeat offenders, etc?? And drunk drivers, don't even get me started. You child lovers out there, what about the thousands of children killed by drunk drivers??? Don't you think their parents cry for them?
Just a double standard when it comes to animals- it's ok for people to kill people, but when an animal kills (or doesn't kill in this case), people break their necks to take the 1st shot.

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