A young mountain lion may have to be killed if it doesn’t get the message to stop making a Scottsdale neighborhood part of its stomping grounds.
Residents have seen the lion at least 14 times since late June — most recently last weekend — in and around the Stonegate development, said Arizona Game and Fish Department wildlife biologist Randy Babb.
There are no reports of any attacks.
Stonegate, a gated enclave of more than 900 residences, is south of Mountain View Road between 112th and 120th streets and north of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Game and Fish experts are working with the Stonegate Community Association to clear vegetation from washes and anywhere else the animal might seek refuge.
They’re hoping the lion will find the area inhospitable and move to nearby mountains or other open lands.
"It’s not acting in an overtly aggressive manner but everything about its behavior tells us it’s getting used to living around people, and that’s disturbing," Babb said. "We would love it if (the lion) got up and left, but it doesn’t seem to be doing that."
From residents’ descriptions, wildlife officials estimate the lion is about 2 years old and weighs about 75 pounds. A full-grown mountain lion generally weighs between 110 and 150 pounds.
The lion, which has been seen lying in yards and walking down streets, has consistently retreated when it sees people.
But in one instance, it was seen jumping a fence into a children’s playground area.
No one was there at the time, although some people were in a nearby swimming pool, a Game and Fish report said.
If the sightings continue and it’s encountered in places children gather, the department likely will hunt the animal and euthanize it, Babb said.
Residents in the area are accustomed to wildlife. One or more bobcats roam the neighborhood regularly and javelina are seen occasionally, said Larry Paprocki, executive director of the Stonegate Community Association.
But a growing mountain lion "is something totally different. . . . It’s much more prone to aggression. It’s like a loaded gun," he said.
The association has told Game and Fish it would be willing to incur some of the costs if the lion could be captured and relocated in a wilderness area, Paprocki said.
But Babb said the lion could still pose a danger in the wilderness if it has become too comfortable around humans.
No evidence has been found to indicate the lion has preyed on pets in the Stonegate area. It’s probably hunting rabbits in adjoining Indian community land, which is largely open space, Babb said.
If it can’t find shelter, water and food in the neighborhood, it may stay in the Salt River reservation and eventually find its way to the nearby Tonto National Forest or the McDowell Mountains, he said.
The Stonegate case is rare one.
"Usually, in residential areas, mountain lions will just pop up and then go away in a short amount of time," Babb said. "In my 20 years (with Game and Fish) this is the only case I’ve seen of such constant sightings of a mountain lion in one neighborhood."