Chairman Sue Chilton
Arizona Game and Fish Commission
2221 West Greenway Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85023-4399
Dear Chairman Chilton,
I am aware that Game and Fish plans to proceed with an airlift to remove the cougars from Sabino Canyon. I agree that public safety is paramount, and if there is a substantiated case for removing the lions, I stand ready to assist you. However, I am not yet convinced that the animals are, indeed, stalking humans.
My staff has consulted with Paul Beier at Northern Arizona University, who is a recognized expert on mountain lion attacks on humans. Dr. Beier has reviewed the incident sheets provided by the Agency and does not believe there is sufficient data to support killing of the lions based on the behavior reported by the agency.
I understand, through conversation with staff, that Game and Fish has identified a private helicopter to be used in the airlift operation. I also understand there is speculation that your agency would like me to authorize use of a National Guard helicopter to perform the airlift. If the arrangement with the private helicopter company falls through, I stand prepared to take the significant and expensive step of authorizing National Guard assistance, but I ask that Game and Fish first answer the following questions:
Are there other agencies that have successfully airlifted and relocated mountain lions to captive facilities?
What types of helicopters can effectively perform this mission?
What other logistical concerns will affect this operation?
How many mountain lions need to be removed?
For what length of time will the helicopter be retained on 'standby?'
How far must the lions be carried by helicopter?
Finally, Game and Fish must estimate the cost of the operation and identify how those costs will be paid. I understand that other entities have offered support and equipment to complete the airlift of the lions. I encourage you to explore those options, and further encourage you to provide this office with updated information.
I support the prudent decision to keep Sabino Canyon closed at the present time, and I remain committed to helping to resolve this situation. I suspect no one will be completely happy with the outcome, simply because it is the product of a flawed process. I ask that representatives of Game and Fish meet with me as soon as possible to outline a plan for dealing with future issues of this type in a manner that restores public confidence and allows Game and Fish to act in the best interest of the citizens-and the wildlife-of Arizona.
Very truly yours,
cc: Duane Shroufe
Executive Director, Arizona Game and Fish