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Mountain Lions in Arizona

It is no secret that Arizona is in the midst of a significant population increase. As more people move to the state wanting new homes, less land is available for wildlife. As a result, people are encountering animals more frequently than they may have in the past. Although normally this is not a problem, some animals can raise fear and alarm in many people. Mountain lions are the prime example. However, with careful management and wise decisions by all people, living with wildlife does not have to be a scary proposition.

The purpose of this unit is to help students gain a better understanding of mountain lions and the methods used to manage them in the state. This unit begins with a focus on mountain lion biology, particularly the adaptations that make the animal a good predator. In the first lesson, students compare their own abilities at jumping, seeing, and hearing to those of the lion. The second lesson allows students to study the basics of mountain lion diet by researching one of the animal’s possible food chains and the subsequent food web.

The next three lessons explore the interactions of mountain lions and humans in the United States through history. First, students are given the opportunity to compare the population density of humans to the range of mountain lions. Then, in Lesson 4, the students read a short article that explains the history of predator management policies initiated by the government. Lesson 5 requires the students to identify potentially dangerous mountain lion behaviors and the appropriate human responses.

After learning about the biology and history of mountain lions, students will learn about the effects that society has on wildlife management. In Lesson 6, students are asked to play the role of a community member. While in this role, they are to debate a particular issue regarding mountain lions and, as a class, come to a consensus for the appropriate manner in which to handle the animal.

Although these lessons were designed as a unit, they can stand by themselves and be taught individually. However, some activities may require familiarity with concepts or skills that were taught in earlier lessons. Make sure to read through the lesson and determine what knowledge your students are expected to know before carrying it out with the students.

Suggested Grade Levels:

Time Frame:
10–12 days (45 minutes each day)

Enduring Understandings:
After completing the activities contained in this unit, the student should understand these basic concepts:

  • All energy in an ecosystem comes from the sun.
  • Animals eat food to obtain the energy necessary for survival.
  • Changes to one part of an ecosystem can affect all other parts of that ecosystem.
  • Specialists are species that depend on a particular food source while generalists are capable of surviving on a variety of food types.
  • All organisms have adaptations that allow them to survive in particular environments.
  • Human activities can affect the potential for hazards.
  • Human population growth can negatively affect the survival of other species.
  • Wildlife management is based on science as well as the social pressures of the time.

Arizona Department of Education Standards:
The lessons in this unit were designed to present an integrated approach to learning. Not only will the students be introduced to science concepts dealing specifically with mountain lion natural history, but they will also develop social and skills. Through the course of this unit, they will read nonfiction text, use the Internet to perform research, and participate in a role-play scenario. Although each lesson includes the specific performance objectives achieved for each grade level, the following general concepts are covered:

Subject Strand Lessons
1 2 3 4 5 6
Science 1 x   x x x  
2 x         x
3     x x x x
4 x x x      
Social Studies 1     x x    
3       x   x
4     x     x

Download this unit:
The lessons in this unit are available in a standard PDF form or can be accessed directly from the internet by teachers and students:

Web-based Lessons: Coming soon

PDF Lessons:

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