A big cat in Dawg town
At least one mountain lion has spent the summer drifting in and out of the Absarokee area.
Several sightings, mostly at night, have led to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Game Warden Paul Luepke and biologists spending time in the south county to monitor the animal. A few sightings have come during daylight hours as well.
“Which is a little unusual,” said Luepke.
The most recent sighting came last Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 12:15 p.m. at Hawkins Park on West Willow Street, according to Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office dispatch records. Luepke responded to try and locate the lion but was unsuccessful.
Fortunately, the lion —or lions — have shown no aggression thus far, prompting FWP to decide it’s not necessary to take lethal action.
A human-lion conflict would change that. Last week, FWP told sheriff’s deputies that if the animal was endangering anyone or acting aggressively, it could be “dispatched,” according to dispatch records.
Luepke said it is unknown if one lion is being seen repeatedly or if there are multiple lions making town visits. A few sightings have involved a lion with a cub.
The presence of mountain lions in the Absarokee area comes as no surprise to Luepke, considering the town falls into prime lion territory. But the repeated presence of at least one cat is due to something entirely different — an over-abundance of deer resulting from people in town feeding them, something that is illegal. Luepke said that has been an issue for years in Absarokee.
Getting the lions to leave is as simple as removing the food source, said Luepke.
Mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, are powerful predators that sit at the top of the food chain. Adult males weigh from 85 to 180 pounds and can reach eight feet in length from nose to the tip of the tail, according to the FWP website. They are most active at dusk and dawn.At one time, they were the most “widely distributed” land mammal in the western hemisphere, occupying space from northern British Columbia the southern tip of South America, according to FWP. Presently, mountain lions are found primarily in the western states and a remnant population in Florida.
The guidelines on what to do when confronted by a lion are very similar to grizzly bear tactics. Don’t run as that could trigger the animal’s instinct to chase. Stand and face the animal, make eye contact, raise your arms over your head to look as big as possible and speak in a loud, firm voice, according to FWP. Throwing stones, branches and other objects is recommended, as long as you don’t have to bend over to pick objects up. Bending over could make you look like prey.