Environmental Group Says Wildlife Managers Deceived Public - Tucson News Now

Environmental Group Says Wildlife Managers Deceived Public

By J.D. Wallace, News 13 Reporter

posted 4/11/04


Mountain lion warnings are now a regular part of visiting Sabino Canyon, but not even Friday’s capture of a cat phased Easter visitors.


“Not really, not at all,” said Sabino Canyon visitor Jeremy Hammerton, who grew up in Tucson but now lives in Atlanta.  “Looking at the number of people around, it seems as though it would be a rare instance that we might encounter one.  That might be a naïve approach to take, but I feel pretty safe out here.”


“I’m not really scared to be in (Sabino Canyon),” said Tucsonan Jennifer Palys.  “I definitely feel a little safer now that they got (a mountain lion).”


But the recent capture bothers at least one environmental group: Earth First.  The group says when Game and Fish and the Forest Service announced they were scaling back the mountain lion search two weeks ago, they gave the impression that no mountain lions would be captured.


“There may be some clever language that they used in there, but it doesn’t change the fact that, fundamentally this was a deception,” said Lenny Molina with Earth First.


But Game and Fish and the Forest Service said they would keep watching for the mountain lions.  The Forest Service said they had to.


“We said that we would be monitoring to see if we found any sign, and to ensure the public was safe, and so that continued through this time,” said Coronado National Forest Santa Catalina Ranger District Ranger Larry Raley.


Now Earth First said it plans to once again keep cats from getting captured, even if it won’t say how.


“We don’t believe Game and Fish has suspended the hunt,” Molina said.  “We believe they’re still hunting and we’re committed to protecting the mountain lion in any way we can.”


As for those who braved the canyon on Sunday, they said the best decision is to allow Game and Fish and the Forest Service to do their job.


“We just have to trust the experts really,” said Tucsonan Paul Fields.  “I mean that’s their job and they’re real professionals.”


"Whatever needs to be done to maintain public safety,” said Tucsonan Bob Dawson.  “Especially for the kids."


District Ranger Larry Raley expects to decide by mid-week whether to completely re-open Sabino Canyon to visitors, so that they can leave the paved road and once again explore the trails.

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