WHITEFISH – Police here shot and killed a mountain lion in a residential neighborhood late Sunday night when the animal showed little interest in leaving a yard, even as more vehicles and humans arrived on the scene.
A family returning to their Sixth Street home found the mountain lion, an adult female, in their yard and called 911 from their driveway at approximately 10:30 p.m., saying they were afraid to get out of their vehicle and go into their house.
Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial said responding officers “hollered at the cat,” which turned and meandered down a trail for a bit.
“Then she turned around, walked back up the trail and treed herself,” Dial said. “Usually, if you see a mountain lion, they’re gone, but this one had no fear.
“It’s always a judgment call on our part, when we’re dealing with a mountain lion or bear. This one was so close to so many residents, and the biggest factor was the obvious habituation to people. It was just not afraid.”
It was the third time in about three years his officers have killed mountain lions in Whitefish, Dial said. In the first incident, the mountain lion had killed and eaten a pet.
“And about a year and a half ago, there was a mountain lion looking in people’s windows, which is totally out of character for them,” Dial said. “It’s nothing we relish having to do, but mountain lions can be dangerous. There have been numerous incidents in the United States where they have attacked people.”
His department receives lots of reports of mountain lion sightings in town, Dial said, but usually the animals move off quickly.
“A lot of times it’s young ones that den up under decks of vacation homes,” the chief said, “but they’re gone by the time we get there.”
Just two weeks ago, Dial added, officers responded to a report of a grizzly bear that had been under a cherry tree in a yard, and left the yard and began approaching a man who was walking his dog on the street.
Officers scared off the grizzly, Dial said, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks then successfully trapped and relocated the bear.
The mountain lion that was killed Sunday night weighed approximately 100 pounds.