BOISE, Idaho — Mountain lion sightings are on the rise this winter in Blaine County. Since Dec. 5, Idaho Department of Fish and Game told KTVB they've had 70 reportings of mountain lion incidents and sightings.
"That number is certainly far exceeds everything we've ever experienced before," said Fish and Game Magic Valley Region Wildlife Manager Mike McDonald.
Their latest encounter was with a mountain lion running around in Hailey's city limits. The agency made the decision to euthanize the animal, and they said they did it in order to protect the public.
A viewer captured video of the lion running around an intersection in the Woodside subdivision. The lion can be seen running up to a chain-link fence and it waits on the side of the road for a few seconds before darting back across the street.
Fish and Game couldn’t say the lion captured in the video was the same lion they euthanized but said there was a strong chance it was the same animal.
“The lion that was euthanized was a large adult male,” McDonald said. “It sure appeared from the video that was a large adult male, could be coincidence but that's pretty unlikely.”
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The location of the lion and the activity at the time is what caused the wildlife agency to make the decision to euthanize the predator.
“Busses, bus stops, potential for kids to be walking home from school,” McDonald said. “We errored on the side of caution.”
Mountain lion sightings in that region of Idaho aren't uncommon. One thing that is uncommon this year is the number of mountain lion sightings.
“We have no intention of inciting panic or hysteria,” McDonald said. “We track this type of activity up there and since Dec. 5 we've had well over 70 reported sightings, and or encounters or incidents with mountain lions in the Wood River Valley.”
There's no definitive reason what is causing the increase in sightings. McDonald has some educated guesses though.
“Because we have really healthy deer and elk populations,” McDonald said. “It would make sense that an obligate predator like a mountain lion would also have a really healthy population.”
He said another possible reason is that there are congregations of deer and elk that are in and around the residential areas in Blaine County, and that could attract a predator. Another possible reason is because there isn’t a lot of mountain lion hunting in that region.
“We do want people to be aware that they do live in an area where they have a higher than average likelihood of encountering wildlife,” McDonald said.
Fish and Game says the best things to do if you encounter a lion is to appear large, make loud noises, and don't turn your back on it.
“We encourage people to yell, scream, throw things, fight back basically,” McDonald said.
KTVB asked McDonald why the agency simply couldn’t try to tranquilize the animal and relocate it. He said there are a couple issues with that plan.
One is if they move it to an area with little to no prey, that won't be good for the lion. It also could be relocated to another area with mountain lions around and that wouldn't be good either for the predators since they can be territorial. Lastly, the lion could just make its way right back to the area it was moved from.