Yuma, Ariz. -- On Saturday, officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department killed a mountain lion in the Tank Mountains east of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge as part of the ongoing effort to help restore the declining Kofa Mountains Complex desert bighorn sheep population, which was found to be at historic low numbers during the 2006 population survey.
The lion is the second to be removed under the department’s May 2007 “Kofa Mountains Complex Predation Management Plan,” and was confirmed as having killed four desert bighorn sheep and five mule deer since being captured and collared by the department in October. As was announced at the time, the first lion was killed in June at Dripping Springs northwest of the refuge, and was guarding a cache containing two desert bighorn sheep and a mule deer.
The Kofa herd was once one of the most robust herds in the nation and has been a critically important source of transplant sheep for restoring desert bighorn sheep to Arizona and other southwestern United States mountain ranges for 51 years. Transplants are currently suspended.
As announced in November 2006, wildlife experts attribute the decline to a variety of factors, including drought, predation, disease factors and human disturbance. At that time it was estimated that at least five lions were spending enough time in the area to be considered “resident” lions. This represents a significant change from the transient lion population that has been the historic norm for this part of Arizona.
More details, including copies of the predation management plan and the joint Arizona Game and Fish Department-U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service "Investigative Report and Recommendations for the Kofa Bighorn Sheep Herd" (April 17, 2007), are at the department’s Kofa Web site at www.azgfd.gov/kofa.