A New Mexico man’s dog met its end in a rather unusual way Saturday night. It was killed by a mountain lion roaming through the North Clifton RV Park. The incident had yet another unusual twist because the lion was found shortly after the attack and was shot to death by law enforcement officers. No one in Clifton can remember when a domestic animal was killed by a lion, thus making the dog’s demise so unusual.
What is not uncommon is that lions occasionally roam through this historic mining town nestled in the narrow San Francisco River Canyon. The region has been in the grip of a years-long drought, and hunting in the high country above Clifton is not what it once was for carnivorous predators. Besides readily available water, javelina – wild pigs – inhabit the thick vegetation along the river and can become a lion’s very
The big cats have also been seen stalking the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that are regularly seen in Clifton and along its steep hillsides. The North Clifton RV Park’s grassy areas, including a baseball field, attract sheep and javelina, that, in turn, attract prowling lions. It is located adjacent to the river. According to a report by Clifton police officer Richard Timmes, the dog’s owner, Richard Dunlap, a guest at the RV park, called police to report the mountain lion attack and the death of his dog. Dunlap told Timmes he was in his RV when he heard his dog growling and barking. The dog was on a leash tied to the RV. Dunlap heard the dog yelp and opened the RV door to see what might be causing the dog to bark. He saw the dog, whose name was not included in the report, was dead. The man also saw a mountain lion walking away, so he called police.
While he waited for officers to arrive, the mountain lion returned and tried to take the dog, but the leash prevented it from doing so. Police photos show the dog’s head was mangled. Greenlee County sheriff’s deputies Jeromy Vaughn and Justin Baughman also responded to Dunlap’s call and began searching for the lion in a wooded area near the park.
The officers called Arizona Game & Fish officer Steve Najar who told officers to shoot the lion. Vaughn killed the cat with two rifle shots. Najar soon arrived on the scene and took custody of the lion’s and dog’s remains.