GREAT FALLS – The Great Falls Police Department posted on Facebook at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday that an Animal Control Officer just had a mountain lion cross in front of her vehicle near Verde Park in the 1800 block of Upper River Road.
The GFPD said that the lion is headed toward the river and possibly attempting to swim to Park Island.
The GFPD advises people in this area to bring pets and children inside, and others to please steer clear of the area while officers, along with FWP wardens, try to ascertain if the animal is a threat to public safety.
We will update you as we get more information.
(UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.) FWP wardens say that the lion seems to have made it safely to Park Island, and with there being no imminent threat, they are going to leave it alone.
FWP says that if you encounter a mountain lion, the most important thing is to appear as large as possible, so the animal won’t think you’re its prey.
“What we recommend is that people stand up tall, be big,” said Greg Lemon of FWP. “If you’ve got little kids with you, pick the kids up. If you have a jacket on, open up your jacket.”
More information from FWP about what to do if you encounter a mountain lion:
- Do Not Approach a Lion: Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Do Not Run from a Lion: Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Do not turn your back. Make eye contact. If there are small children nearby, pick them up if possible so they don’t panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
- Do Not Crouch Down or Bend Over: A person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a 4-legged prey animal. When in mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
- Appear Larger: Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children.
- Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
- Be vocal: Talk calmly and regularly.
FWP says it’s rare for a mountain lion to attack. They say it’s best to give it a way to escape, so it can avoid a confrontation. If a lion does attack, Lemon said people should fight back aggressively, which can sometimes stop the animal.
Bear spray can also help deter a mountain lion. “It affects its eyes, nose and mouth,” Lemon said. “Lions don’t like it any more than bears do.”