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Meet Your Neighbor, the Mountain Lion
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Thursday, February 18, 2021
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Learn about the mountain lions that slink through our backyards when they think no one is watching in tonight’s episode of “Wildlife Among Us: Mountain Lions.”

Idaho Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Sierra Robatcek, who just completed a successful house call to a Hailey elk with conjunctivitis, will take a look at the biology and behavior of mountain lions from 5:30 to 7 p.m. tonight—Feb. 18—on behalf of the Hailey Public Library.

RSVP to Kristin.fletcher@haileypubliclibrary.org to tune into the program.

The Wood River Valley saw a hundred incidents involving mountain lions during the winter of 2019-20. Three pet dogs were killed and a couple others were maimed. One horse was killed by a lion in Croy Canyon.

Mountain lion calls in the Wood River Valley and near Pine and Featherville took an immediate uptick two weeks ago after three to five feet of snow fell on mountain communities.

In the Wood River Valley most reports have come from neighborhoods north of Hailey. That said, mountain lions have been reported between Hailey and Bellevue, and a lion is suspected in the killing of a deer near homes in the Indian Creek area. No attacks on people or pets have occurred yet this winter.

Many of the lion calls received by Fish and Game over the past few weeks involve deer and elk that have been killed and cached by lions, some very close to neighborhood homes.

“We urge residents to notify our officers if they observe a lion or see tracks around their homes, or if they come across cached prey,” says Regional Conservation Officer Josh Royse. “Our goal is to make sure that people and their pets stay safe, and that predators, like mountain lions, continue their natural movements through our communities, which they will do if we do not encourage them to linger in town or in our back yards.

Residents should immediately report any encounter that results in an attack to the Magic Valley Regional Office at 208-324-4359. If after hours, local conservation officers can be reached by calling the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Reports can also be made to your local law enforcement agency.

 Mountain lion sightings and observations should also be reported to the Fish and Game Magic Valley Regional Office.

 Terry Thompson, regional communications manager for Idaho Fish and Game, outlines these safety precautions for those in the presence of a mountain lion:

 NEVER run away from a mountain lion. The lion’s instinct is to chase and catch what they perceive as potential prey.

  • NEVER turn your back on a lion. Always face them while making yourself look as large as you can. Yell loudly, but don’t scream. A high-pitched scream may sound like a wounded animal.
  • SLOWLY back away while maintaining eye contact with the lion.
  • Safety equipment you may choose to carry could include bear spray, a noise device, like an air horn, and if you walk in the dark, a very bright flashlight.
  • If you are attacked, fight back!

Pet safety 

Mountain lions are opportunistic predators, and will often attempt to take prey when it presents itself. A lion may perceive a pet as prey so pet owners are strongly encouraged to follow these safety tips:

  • Keep your pets on a leash.
  • Watch the pets’ behavior, since they may sense the lion before you can actually see them.
  • Do not feed your pet outside, or leave their food dishes outside. Lions will not typically be attracted by the pet food, but the food could attract feral cats or wildlife like raccoons or skunks that could be considered prey by a lion.
  • Before letting your pet outside, turn on lights, make noise and look to ensure the yard is clear of wildlife. Do not assume that a privacy fence will keep a mountain lion out of your yard.
  • Accompany your pet outside if possible.

Homeowner safety

By nature, mountain lions are shy and will make every effort to avoid contact with humans. Over the last several months it does appear there are some lions that have become accustomed to living near towns and neighborhoods. Homeowners can do several things to make it less likely that a mountain lion would pass through, or live near their homes and neighborhoods. These include:

  • Do not feed wildlife! Elk and deer are the preferred prey for mountain lions. Feeding is unnecessary and can concentrate elk and deer herds which can attract predators.
  • Do not leave garbage outside and unsecured. Garbage will not typically attract a mountain lion, but it might attract other animals that would be considered prey.
  • Ensure that a lion cannot crawl under your deck or into basement window wells which could be a perfect place for a daybed.
  • Install motion-sensor lights which may discourage wildlife from staying in your yard. Lights can be directed to minimize light impact on your neighbors.

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