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Big cat in Washoe Park

Big cat in Washoe Park

State clarifies zero tolerance policy toward mountain lions

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ANACONDA – The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks clarified its stance for dealing with mountain lions in residential areas after recently putting down an animal sighted in Anaconda.

Local game warden Joe Kambic said he received a report last month of a female juvenile mountain lion at the west end of Washoe Park, which had apparently lived there a while and lost its fear of humans.

Mountain lions are predators, Kambic said, and FWP has a zero tolerance policy toward those that are acclimated to being around people.

Kambic shot the animal in Washoe Park for public safety, and especially for the safety of children, he said.

“I hate to kill animals, but it’s either that mountain lion or risk someone getting hurt,” Kambic said. “I’m not going to take that chance.”

Regional wildlife manager Mike Thompson compared how they handle mountain lions to how they handle black bears, which are first tranquilized and relocated if found in neighborhoods.

It isn’t until after a bear keeps coming back and demonstrates a learned behavior that it has to be killed, but mountain lions are different in that they are territorial, Thompson said.

By transplanting a mountain lion into another’s territory, its survival rate declines.

“They would have to keep moving until they found an empty space to live and stake out,” Thompson said.

Mountain lions are also almost exclusively carnivores and hunters, whereas black bears are omnivores.

“When a mountain lion is hanging around, it will eventually need to kill something,” Thompson said. “They generally avoid people, but the risk goes way up when you have one that has learned to habituate to human activity.”

While the FWP does not always want to put down a mountain lion, the Washoe Park case is an example where they will not sit and wait for something to happen, Thompson said.

Kambic said there have since been no other reports since of mountain lions in Washoe Park, and is hoping to donate the animal to a school for educational purposes.

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