Arizona's wildlife agency said Wednesday that it killed three mountain lions who had fed on human remains found on a canyon trail.
The lions are not suspected of killing the victim, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, but they were "lethally removed" due to their "abnormal" behavior indicating they were a safety threat.
“Mountain lions are not routinely scavengers. A mountain lion eating human remains is abnormal behavior. Those that do are more likely to attack a human being in the future,” Raul Vega of the Arizona Game and Fish Department told NBC affiliate KVOA in Tucson. “In addition, they did so 50 yards from a popular hiking trail and within sight of homes, and repeatedly showed no fear of responding officers. They were a clear and present danger to public safety.”
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department said deputies found the remains Monday while investigating an incident on the Pima Canyon Trail. The sheriff's department, along with the medical examiner's office and the state Game and Fish Department are working to determine what happened to cause the person's death.
An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday, and the lions are being preserved as potential evidence in the death investigation, KVOA reported.
PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange said the incident was a "tragic story all around, ending in the killing of three animals who were just trying to survive in a warming world with increasing chokeholds on their existence, including habitat loss, human encroachment, and more."