Two mountain lions were shot and killed in Columbia Falls on Aug. 17 after being spotted in a public area during the day.
While it’s not unheard of for mountain lions that pose a public threat to be terminated — according to a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson, two lions were removed in 2018 in Northwest Montana — it is unusual for two to be killed in one area on the same day.
“It’s not natural for a mountain lion to be near people during the daylight,” said FWP spokesperson Dillon Tabish. “We don’t tolerate that.”
According to Tabish, both cats were spotted near Columbia Falls’ River’s Edge Park. The first mountain lion was shot by a homeowner who then alerted law enforcement and turned the body over to FWP. Later, a second mountain lion was spotted in the same area. A Columbia Falls police officer shot the animal and it ran off. The officer told FWP officials that they believe the animal is dead although the body has yet to turn up.
“If you feel threatened by a wildlife you can defend yourself,” Tabish said. “That includes shooting them.”
Last year, FWP received 155 phone calls in the Flathead Valley involving mountain lions. Most of the calls came in between July and September. In the last four years, about two mountain lions annually were terminated. In 2008, nine mountain lions were removed in the area.
Tabish estimated that there are more than 1,500 mountain lions in Northwest Montana.
Earlier this summer, a mountain biker encountered a mountain lion on the Whitefish Trail near Haskill Basin. According to a press release from FWP, the man was near Haskill Creek, not far from the new trailhead off Big Mountain Road, on June 28. He said a family of three or four mountain lions briefly followed him down the trail before disappearing into the forest.
FWP reminds people to never approach a mountain lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation, so always give them a way to escape. People should never run from a mountain lion because it triggers the animal’s instinct to chase. People should never crouch or bend over in front of a mountain lion. Instead, people should try to appear larger by opening your jacket or waving your arms slowly. Speak in a loud voice and throw rocks and branches at the animal.
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