Three Vail men have been cited in connection with the shooting death of an adult female mountain lion June 10 in Colossal Cave Mountain Park southeast of Tucson.
Richard C. Dailey, Martin Melvin Foersterling and Thayne A. Lefevre face a variety of misdemeanor charges in the case, said Mark Hart, spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Dailey is a subcontractor who oversees the trail-riding concession at Colossal Cave Park, which is owned by Pima County and operated by a nonprofit company, said Tom Moulton, the county's economic development and tourism director.
Lefevre does maintenance work and is a senior staff member for the nonprofit company that runs the park for the county, Moulton said.
Hart, of the Game and Fish Department, said Dailey was cited for illegal take of wildlife, illegal take of wildlife in a closed area and illegal method of taking wildlife, involving the illegal use of a .22-caliber rifle.
Maximum penalties for the misdemeanors are four months in jail and a $750 fine, Hart said.
He said Foersterling was cited for illegal take of wildlife and illegal take of wildlife in a closed area.
Lefevre was charged with making a false statement to a law enforcement officer, Hart said. He couldn't immediately provide information on the maximum possible penalty.
Hart said the men might also be liable for civil penalties of up to $1,500 imposed by the Game and Fish Department.
"I did shoot it"
The female mountain lion, which weighed between 65 and 70 pounds "had multiple gunshot wounds when we recovered the body," Hart said.
He said details of the investigation that led to the suspects would be available later in an investigation report, but he said Tuesday that investigators found no justification for the lion killing.
"There are only two justified reasons for taking a mountain lion without a hunting license and tag," Hart said. "One is if a person is in imminent threat of life and limb. The other is if a mountain lion has killed your livestock - and in that case you're responsible for reporting the incident promptly to the Game and Fish Department. Neither of those factors was involved in this case."
Dailey, in a brief phone interview Tuesday, said that "I did shoot it. As far as I was concerned, it was legal."
He said the mountain lion had come within about 20 yards of the front door of the park's museum at one point and also was seen about three feet off a trail.
"This thing has been lied about, twisted," Dailey said. "It's a mess."
Moulton, the county economic development director, said Dailey has another connection with the park - managing grazing leases on state lands in the vicinity of the park for the nonprofit Parklands Foundation, which formerly held grazing leases at the park itself.
Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, whose district includes Colossal Cave, called the mountain lion shooting a "travesty."
"This is such a bad precedent for stewards of our public lands," Carroll said.
"A guy who is supposed to be a steward of a mountain park shoots a mountain lion. If it were up to me, I'd throw the book at them," Carroll said of Dailey and Lefevre. "It doesn't sit well for this Board of Supervisors whose conservation ethic is as serious and well-noted as ours is. … It's a black eye on the Pima County Board of Supervisors."
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz