A recent rash of reported mountain lion sightings on social media have had locals being extra cautious before heading out into the mountains and forested areas.
The last sighting was reported on Tuesday, when a Facebook post concerning a mountain lion being seen a few miles up river of the Snake Pit had folks questioning if the surrounding area and trails were safe to be on.
Kiira Siitari with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game referred the Shoshone News-Press to a brochure that IDFG had published concerning how to coexist with the big cats, including some safety tips for locals to follow.
Mountain lions have exceptionally large home ranges that can be anywhere from 50 to 350 square miles and can overlap with other lions’ territory if the lion in question is male.
That means any number of mountain lions could be inhabiting the 2,635 square miles that encompasses Shoshone County.
The brochure gave some tips that are very handy to know and remember if you plan on spending any time outdoors this summer.
• Don’t feed wildlife, including deer, raccoons or other small animals. All are lion prey species and may attract mountain lions.
• Feed pets indoors if possible. Pet food left outdoors may attract mountain lions or lion prey, such as raccoons.
• Manage garbage to avoid attracting lion prey. Don’t leave garbage out at night, use cans with tight fitting lids.
• Avoid landscaping that attracts deer and provides hiding places for lions.
• Close off spaces beneath decks, porches or sheds that can be used by mountain lions and lion prey species.
• Keep outdoor animals in a secure pen that includes a wire roof. Some dog breeds may help deter a mountain lion.
• Keep small pets indoors, especially from dawn to dusk.
• Supervise children when they are outdoors.
“Attacks on people are very rare. Small pets and livestock (like chickens) left outside overnight are more at risk if there is a mountain lion in town,” Sitarii said. “If a lion has found a reliable source of food (even next to roads and homes), it will likely keep coming back.”
Should anyone encounter a mountain lion, there are some very basic tips for how to handle that situation.
• Do not run
• If you are with children, pick them up without bending over.
• Do not turn your back on the lion, crouch down or try to hide.
• Remain facing the lion and slowly back away. Leave the animal an escape route.
• Try to appear as large as possible — stand on a rock or stump, hold up your arms and stand next to others.
• Shout, wave your arms and throw objects if the lion does not leave the area.
• Fight back if a mountain lion attacks. Stay on your feet and use sticks, rocks, backpack and hands to fight back. Use bear spray if you have it.
• Never approach a mountain lion or offer it food.
“We have a healthy population of mountain lions in the Panhandle,” Sitarii said. “Since these animals are pretty secretive and nocturnal, sightings in town are not particularly common but not surprising either. It may be the nicer weather has people outside more — this increases the chances of seeing a lion and the possibility that more people out in the woods could bump an animal in to a new area.”
Sitarii would also encourage folks to report any mountain lion sightings in town to Fish and Game’s Regional Office at 208-769-1414.