TETON VALLEY, Idaho — Following an incident Monday that resulted in the killing of a mountain lion near Tetonia, Idaho Fish and Game are reminding the public that extra vigilance is required when people and their pets live in close proximity to these animals.
Monday’s incident involved the loss of a family pet to a mountain lion when a young female lion ventured into a homeowner’s yard and killed their dog before heading under their porch. The homeowners immediately called local law enforcement who responded and dispatched the lion in the interest of public safety.
“These pet owners did nothing wrong or out of the ordinary to provoke this attack,” says James Brower with Idaho Fish and Game. “Our hearts go out to them for their loss.”
“Deep snow and bitter cold mean that animals will be seeking lower elevations near people in search of easy meals,” says Brower. “People in rural areas need to be especially vigilant and aware of their surroundings, knowing that wildlife may be closer to their homes than usual.”
Brower told Buckrail that there is a multitude of reasons why mountain lions come down to lower elevations in the cold. Often it is due to snow depth and the fact that they are seeking prey.
Simply, mountain lions follow their food source and if they are having trouble seeking their natural food sources they may resort to family pets.
With this at hand, Fish and Game has recently received several calls involving mountain lion sightings in Teton Valley and is actively working with residents to address concerns and provide safety tips and suggestions to those who live close to lions and other wildlife. No matter the species, being aware of your surroundings is often the best line of defense.
Fish and Game doesn’t have an exact count of how many mountain lion sightings there have been this season, as they come in through different sources. But there has certainly been an increase in mountain lion activity in residential areas in Teton Valley.
Additional information on pet and homeowner safety and what to do in the event of a mountain lion encounter can be found below.
Mountain lions have been living in Teton Valley long before human development began. Most residents, even those who have lived there for years, have never observed one. However, some residents are now seeing these secretive cats as they pass through their neighborhoods. Some reports include sightings of lions during daylight hours, which is not typical behavior.
Wildlife managers agree that if a person is in close proximity to a lion, meaning they see it, they should:
- NEVER run away from a mountain lion. The lion’s instinct is to chase and ultimately catch what they perceive as a 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 mimic the sound of 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!
Remember to use all of your senses to detect if a mountain lion is near. Using a light to help you see your surroundings is very important, both in your yard, or as you walk in your neighborhood. If you run or bike for personal fitness, use caution when wearing headphones which take away your ability to hear if a lion, or any other wildlife, is giving you signals that you’re too close.
Mountain lions are opportunistic predators, meaning they don’t know when their next meal will happen, and will often attempt to take prey when it presents itself. A lion may perceive a pet as prey. To keep pets safe, 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. The mountain lion will not typically be attracted by the food, but the food could attract other wildlife that could be looked at as 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 exclude a mountain lion from your yard.
- Accompany your pet outside if possible.
By nature, mountain lions are shy and will make every effort to avoid contact with humans. 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:
- When leaving your house, be aware of your surroundings. Look and listen for signs of wildlife near your house.
- Do not feed wildlife! Elk and deer are the preferred prey for mountain lions. Un-naturally feeding elk and deer will bring in predators to the feed site.
- Strongly encourage your neighbors to not feed elk and deer. To effectively keep predators out of neighborhoods everyone must do their part.
- Do not leave your household garbage outside and unsecured. As with pet food, the garbage will not typically attract a mountain lion, but it might attract other wildlife that would be considered prey by a lion.
- Ensure that a lion cannot get under your patio or deck. These spaces can be a perfect location for a day-bed or hiding spot.
- Place covers over window-wells which can also be a place for a lion to use as a day-bed.
- Install motion-sensor lights which may discourage wildlife from staying in your yard. Lights can be directed to minimize impact on your neighbors.
Reporting mountain lion sightings and encounters
Eastern Idaho residents and visitors should immediately report any encounter that results in an attack to the Upper Snake Regional Office at (208) 525-7290 during business hours, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday. 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 Sheriff’s Office.