TUCSON (CN) – A man who claims he shot a mountain lion in self-defense while hunting wild pigs has sued Arizona, saying it unfairly barred him and his father from hunting and fishing in the state for 5 years. He claims he saw the “mountain lion, probably rabid, coming at him at close range,” and “shot from the hip” to protect himself.
James and Mark Reed, father and son, say they were hunting javelina on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge 70 miles southwest of Tucson, just north of the Mexican border, in February 2010. Javelina are also known as wild boars or collared peccary.
“At one point during the hunt, Mark Reed turned to see a mountain lion, probably rabid, coming at him at close range,” according to the complaint. “He shot from the hip and struck it, finishing it with a second shot.”
Healthy mountain lions typically shy away from humans and are rarely seen in the wild. One of the symptoms of rabies in big cats and other mammals can be that they show no fear of humans.
It is legal to hunt mountain lions in Arizona with a tag from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and state law allows killing of wildlife in self-defense. Successful mountain lion hunters almost always use trained dogs to track and tree a lion before killing it.
The Reeds say they were taking the lion to Tucson to have it tested for rabies when a state Game and Fish agent and a federal National Wildlife Refuge agent approached them at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. James Reed had placed his lion tag on the carcass because Mark Reed didn’t have one, according to the complaint.
The agents “had been contacted by several neutral witnesses who confirmed that the lion had been attacking Mark Reed,” the complaint states. Even so, the state Game and Fish agent cited Mark Reed for “unlawful take, take in an area closed to mountain lion hunting, possession of unlawfully taken wildlife, and using the tag of another.”
The agent cited James Reed for allowing his son to use his tag.
The complaint adds that “the state agent then filed a report which did not mention that the shooting was in self-defense, nor that neutral witnesses had confirmed this.”
Both men pleaded guilty to the charges in Pima County Justice Court, and in October 2010 the Arizona Game and Fish Commission suspended their hunting and fishing privileges for 5 years and imposed a shared $1,500 fine.
After the revocation hearing, the Reeds got hold of a report by the federal agent who had been at the checkpoint. The report “confirm[ed] that Mark Reed had fired in self-defense,” according to the complaint.
The Reeds asked the commission to reconsider the suspensions in light of the federal agent’s report. The commissioners declined.
The Reeds sued the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in Pima County Superior Court. They say the commission’s decision was arbitrary, that the shared fine was illegal, and that the 5-year suspension was too harsh and should not have extended to fishing privileges
They want the court to overturn the revocations.
They are represented by David Hardy of Tucson.