Longtime Oro Valley resident Burton Jordan had seen a mountain lion on his place once before.
Then, on Monday, June 22, near the intersection of Naranja and La Cañada, Jordan had more than a mountain lion sighting. He saw a big cat leap and sprint, tossing gravel with each powerful pace.
Jordan, who resides at 11320 N. Palmetto Dunes Ave., between the third and fourth fairways at the El Conquistador Country Club, was "puttering around in the backyard" about 10 a.m. Monday when he peered through the bushes at an animal drinking from a waterfall on his property.
"I've seen lots of bobcats before," Jordan said. This time, through the greenery, he could see fur. "I'm thinking it's more than one bobcat, three or four. Then, no spots. Then a thick long tail. I decided it's not a bobcat."
In clearer space, Jordan and a mountain lion looked directly at one another. The lion took off, quickly and with strength.
"He threw gravel clear up on my patio, and headed for the south fence," Jordan said. "He took that gravel to bare dirt. He launched himself up in the air about 10 feet from the fence, and hit the fence with his back feet."
Jordan yelled to his wife. They ran to the front yard and saw the lion two doors south. The animal leaped over another fence, and into a ditch.
There was a police officer nearby, and the Jordans waved. Workers had seen "what looked like a mountain lion walking down" the fourth fairway at the golf course, and called police. A responding Oro Valley Police Department officer did not see a lion, according to a police spokesman.
The mountain lion was full-sized, Jordan said, perhaps more than two feet at the shoulder, and more than three feet head to tail.
"They're beautiful," said Jordan, who is concerned the big cats may fare poorly in their interactions with people. "We want to make people aware that they're out there. Let's learn to live with them. Just watch out for them. Don't kill them every time you get a chance."
He said people should be aware of mountain lion interactions with children and pets. The Jordan family dog stays inside most of the time.
In Arizona, mountain lions are absent only from the areas heavily impacted by human development, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. In general, the distribution of mountain lions in Arizona corresponds with the distribution of its major prey species, deer.
Mountain lions are found all across Arizona.
Their preferred habitat is desert mountains with broken terrain and steep slopes.
Preferred prey are deer, elk, javelina, bighorn sheep and livestock.
They have ranges from 10 to 50 miles, for females, and from 20 to 150 miles for males.
A male can weigh from 80 to 150 pounds, a female 70 to 100 pounds.
Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department
What to do if you encounter a mountain lion
• Keep children close to you. Observations of captured wild mountain lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children. Keep children in your sight at all times.
• Do not approach a mountain lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
• Do not run from a mountain lion. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
• Do not crouch or bend over.
• Appear larger: Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
• Fight back if attacked. Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
Tips for living in mountain lion country
• Don't feed wildlife.
• Deer-and rabbit-proof your landscape.
• Landscape for safety: Remove dense and / or low-lying vegetation that provides good hiding places for mountain lions and coyotes, especially around children's play areas. Make it difficult for wild predators to approach a yard unseen.
• Closely supervise children. Keep a close watch on children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about mountain lions and teach them what to do if they encounter one.
• Install outdoor lighting. Keep the house perimeter well lit at night, especially along walkways, to keep any approaching mountain lions visible.
• Keep pets secure. Roaming pets are easy prey for hungry mountain lions and coyotes. Either bring pets inside or keep them in a kennel with a secure top. Don't feed pets outside; this can attract javelina and other mountain lion prey.
Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department