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Arizona Mountain Lion Hunt Turns Into Dangerous Jaguar Encounter

Arizona Mountain Lion Hunt Turns Into Dangerous Jaguar Encounter

A father and daughter with their dogs on a dry ground mountain lion hunt get more than they bargain for when they tree a dangerous jaguar. Here's their story:

The hunt was supposed to be a day in which Aly Fenn got her first crack at killing a mountain lion. Having recently turned 10-years-old, Aly had taken the required hunter safety courses and had tagged along on more than a few hunts with her dad, Donnie, who runs Chasin' Tails Guide Service, an Arizona outfit that specializes in dry ground mountain lion hunts. Up until now, she'd only been a spectator, taking in the sights and sounds of dogs baying and barking at a big ole' tom pinned atop a tree or canyon wall, snarling and swiping at his pursuers. If they spotted a tom cougar on this day though, it was Aly's time and turn for lion.
Father and daughter were on Dun mules, steadily scaling the side of a mountain as dogs all around them worked constantly, looking for a track that would sound the alarm that a chase was about to ensue.
And while Aly didn't get her lion, she got something that should top any big cat experience she encounters the rest of her many days€¦riding with her dad in southern Arizona -- through the junipers, mesquite and oaks -- after a mysterious spotted cat that only a handful of Grand Canyon State residents can say they've ever laid eyes on.
The cat had spots.

Maybe a giant bobcat?

Couldn't be€¦much too big.

He reached down for his video camera and zoomed in, pushing the lens as far as it could, and to his disbelief, he saw a jaguar, hissing, roaring, and swiping at his dogs, who were clearly outmatched.
Finally, Fenn saw the dogs had the cat treed as they barked and danced around a mesquite. Stopping his mule 200 yards away, Donnie could see with his naked eyes something wasn't quite right.
Fenn atop a dun mule with a lion from a previous hunt. A dun mule is mix between a jackass and Zebra Dun mare

Running back to his mule, Fenn shoved a boot into a stirrup and prodded his mule to take off after his dogs, calling back to Aly that the dogs had a cat. Over the next ten minutes, the chase took them winding down the mountain, through juniper and oak trees, while the father looked and listened for the dogs that were on hot pursuit.

Fenn (wearing the black cowboy hat) at a press conference with Arizona Game & Fish officials discussing his encounter at a press conference

Fenn immediately called Arizona Game & Fish officials on how to handle the situation as the chaos continued. G&F officials asked Fenn to back off and let the big cat go, but Fenn had to get his dogs back first, who were getting beat up badly by the 200-pound big cat.

Hopping off his mule, Fenn started towards the cat, but suddenly saw the big tom hop down from its perch and swipe at one of his younger dogs, sending him flying several feet.

As the pair plodded along, Siren, an one-eyed red tick that's one of Fenn's best, caught wind of something from a spot all the other dogs had passed and let loose a tell-all bark that only a veteran lion dog could make. The younger dogs, knowing that Siren never lets out a false alarm, immediately doubled back and started working the area. Fenn swung his legs over his Correinte saddle and jumped to the ground, examining the earth for sign when all-of-a-sudden the hounds had the track€¦the chase was on.
This is a scene Fenn and his daughter Aly were expecting to see

After backing away, the jaguar, which is twice the size of the tom cougars in the area, stayed in the tree for another 15 minutes or so, and then slowly climbed down and headed south.

Fenn always believed that he'd encounter a jaguar someday.

"I just had a feeling being this close to Mexico, that one day I'd come across a jaguar. But I thought it would be a lot later down the road," said Fenn.

Goose was responsible for treeing the cat a second time

Fenn continued his chase on foot for another mile and half, catching cat-punctured dogs and tying them up one at a time, until he saw that the big cat was treed again as the result of a dog named Goose, who was able to stay with the jaguar after it made a big circle down in the flats and alone, was able to tree the cat.

Slowly and cautiously, Fenn approached the mesquite with his S&W .357 on his hip, pulling dogs away. He got within 15 feet of the jaguar, allowing him to get several fantastic images as it stayed steady on its perch.

"I was sure concerned. If that thing came at me, I wouldn't had time to do anything€¦one bullet wouldn't have done it," said Fenn.

Siren lost one of her eyes to a lion 5 or 6 years ago, but remains one of Fenn's best dogs

After corralling his last dog, Fenn backed away, awed by the experience.

"I've treed and bayed countless lions in rocks and trees and remember all of them like it was yesterday€¦this experience with the jaguar topped them all pretty easily," shared Fenn, "It was a rush, knowing that they're pretty rare€¦I can't even explain how neat it was to see it up in the tree."

Fenn and Siren with a previous lion kill. Mountain lion season runs from September through May every year, with the best months occurring between October and February. Non-residents can buy tags over the counter

Fenn always believed that he'd encounter a jaguar someday.

"I just had a feeling being this close to Mexico, that one day I'd come across a jaguar. But I thought it would be a lot later down the road," said Fenn.


A jaguar!

A small population exists in northern Mexico with a range that extends into southern Arizona and New Mexico and the last jaguar to be spotted in Arizona was a big cat dubbed MachoB, who was accidentally trapped by AZ Fish & Wildlife officials conducting research on black bear and mountain lions. MachoB was collared and released, but later recaptured when radio collar reports indicated something was wrong with the cat. Zoo veterinarians determined MachoB was suffering from kidney failure and was euthanized. There have been only a handful of jaguar sightings since 1986.

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