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FWP responds to Great Falls mountain lion incident

SPO Kelley and Warden Burton carry a tranquilized mountain lion out of a residence in the 1500 block of 3rd Ave N.
Mountain lion under a deck in Great Falls (July 31, 2022)
Posted at 7:10 PM, Aug 01, 2022

GREAT FALLS — A mountain lion was captured from a home in Great Falls on Sunday, July 31, 2022. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said the female cat was about three years old and skinny, weighing in at about 70 pounds.

They believe the cat was searching for food and was eventually spotted underneath a house deck along 3rd Avenue North.

Searching for a way to escape while surrounded by law enforcement, it broke through a window into the basement and was injured; it was then tranquilized and eventually euthanized.

While FWP usually tries to relocate large animals such as bears, FWP policy does not allow for relocation of mountain lions, primarily because of human safety as well as the fact that mountain lions generally do not do well with relocation.

FWP Region 4 Communications Manager Dave Hagengruber says mountain lion sightings in Great Falls are not common, but certainly possible with the presence of prey such as deer, cats, dogs, and rabbits.

This marked at least the third mountain lion seen in Great Falls in 2022.
MAY 2022: Mountain lion in Black Eagle
JAN 2022: Mountain lion in Great Falls

He also said they don’t think the lion purposely entered the home, but saw the window as option to escape.

“It was pretty cut up on it’s back after going through the window and was euthanized,” Hagengruber said. “That's not the outcome anybody hopes for a lion, certainly. But when it's a predator and when it's in town, they don't relocate those lions, especially in a case like this, when it's demonstrated the behavior of coming into town and staying long enough to get into a situation like this. And they don't respond well to being relocated. They're highly territorial. So to take a lion and move it somewhere else, put it right into the territory of another lion, it's most likely not going to survive anyway.”

If you encounter a mountain lion, FWP offers the following advice:

  • 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. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so that 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 human standing up is just not the right shape for a lion's prey. Conversely, a person squatting or bending over resembles a four-legged prey animal. In mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
  • Do all you can to 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.
  • Fight back if attacked. A hiker in southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son. Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal
  • Bear Spray. Carry bear spray with you while hiking. Although it is called “bear” spray, the pepper powder will work on just about any wild or domestic animal that attacks.

Residents should report any possible mountain lion sightings immediately to law enforcement or to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.