Sabrina Franks of Camp Verde had never seen a mountain lion in the wild.
On Father's Day just after sunset, Franks came face to face with a mountain lion as it attacked her dog, Max, on the Verde River in Camp Verde near Horseshoe Bend about 60 yards from the canal.
"I was within five feet of the lion. It was dragging my dog away so I threw a rock. It hit the lion on the head. I was screaming and waving my arms, then it dropped my dog and ran away," she said. "It was foolish thinking back now, but it was pure adrenaline. I didn't stop to think about it. It was really frightening and it took us all night to calm down."
Franks, a resident of Camp Verde since 1978, said she and her family were at the river spending the day. The sun went down and they were leaving when they heard a lion growl, then they heard their dog yelp. Her 15-year-old son Damien ran to help the dog, saw the lion and ran the other way. The lion's roar echoed along the river.
"I just reacted," she said. "It was foolish now thinking about it. There is no telling what could have happened if the lion didn't run off."
Franks said that she is concerned because a lot of people fish and hike along the river in that area and many of them are children.
Region 3 Wildlife Manager Tom Bagley with the Arizona Game and Fish Department said that he received a report from the Camp Verde Marshal's Office about the confrontation. He said that mountain lion sightings are not uncommon in the Verde Valley as it offers a riparian environment to animals that the lions prey upon.
"There has always been lions in the Verde Valley," he said. "Sightings are more prevalent in the drier months. The Verde River is a corridor for the lions whose territory can range about 100 miles. The Verde River is a travel route for them."
He said there were reports of sightings of a lion in the Camp Verde area prior to the encounter with Frank, but the lion was not showing any aggression.
Bagley said that usually, mountain lions are rarely aggressive toward humans unless they perceive a threat, especially if the lion has kits.
He said that Northern Arizona is lion country and it isn't only the river area that attracts mountain lions.
Last month, Jerome had a female lion that had killed some pets. The female lion was suffering from severe malnutrition and was destroyed because it would not survive. The Arizona Game and Fish Department usually relocates mountain lions to other areas unless they exhibit extreme aggression towards humans or if they are not going to survive after rehabilitation.
Bagley has been with the Game and Fish Department in the Verde Valley for more than a decade. He said that though there has been lion attacks on humans in Arizona, there are no reports of fatal human confrontations in the state.
"Mountain lions tend to avoid people. They hunt at night and usually prefer to hunt in riparian areas like the Verde River."
Bagley recommends that to avoid a lion confrontation, people should stay away from those areas at night and to make sounds to warn a lion that may be in the area.
"If a lion is sited, make noise," he advised. "Make sounds in a manner that are not threatening. Let the lion know you are there but that you are not a threat."
He said that mountain lions usually prey on deer and javalina, making a kill about every 10 days.
But 12-year-old Max the dog isn't convinced.
Franks said the he is sore and limps a bit.
"He won't go outside by himself," she said. "He ran straight into the car when the lion let go. He's probably going to have bad dreams for awhile."
She said that Max suffered only a scrape on his nose from his attack and no puncture wounds thanks to his thick fur. "He's been part of my family for 10 years and he grew up with my kids," She added. "Max was just trying to protect my kids and me."