Posted: Jul 30, 2012 6:28 PM by Keele Smith - KPAX News
Updated: Jul 30, 2012 7:45 PM
MISSOULA - Officials say folks can expect more sightings of big cats around western Montana. That news comes on the heels of last week's encounter in the Blackfoot Valley where woman saw a mountain lion eyeing one of her children at Harpers Lake.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Vivaca Crowser said said Missoula is surrounded by wild country. "So a lot of good lion habitat, and sometimes that means they're going to pop up in areas in our neighborhoods."
More people are going to be seeing mountain lions as their population increases. Although mountain lions, also called pumas, panthers, catamounts or cougars, like being alone and tend to hang out in covered places, Crowser said people are finding them in heavily-trafficked areas.
"Usually when we're out and about, we might have lions not that far away, but we're never going to know it because they like to have their own space," Crowser said.
Other wildlife specialists have also been getting several calls a week from people who've seen mountain lions this summer.
Last week, at the Harper's Lake Fishing Access, a woman reported a mountain lion eyeing her 4-year-old child from a distance of about 20 feet.
Crowser said it's a good idea to report sightings. "So that we can respond if it's a human safety concern, and also so we can keep track of this as we monitor our lion population as well," Crowser said.
Some basic mountain lion safety tips include making noise, staying in a group and keeping a close eye on small children while out hiking or fishing.
Fish and wildlife is looking to manage the number of mountain lions in Western Montana when hunting season starts.