Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Mountain Lion Hazed Near Downtown Ketchum
This mountain lion had spent at least three days in the backyard of a Ketchum home by Friday morning.
Saturday, January 11, 2020


A few carefully aimed rubber bullets and buckshot prompted a mountain lion ensconced in a Ketchum neighborhood to retreat Thursday.

But it soon returned, the lure of a cached elk calf apparently too great. Fish and Game officials responded by peppering the lion again, using shotguns with non-lethal rubber slugs and buckshot on Friday.

Idaho Fish and Game officers tested the new strategy of hazing on Thursday after a homeowner just south of downtown Ketchum on the east side of Highway 75 reported finding a cougar bedded down in the backyard.

The homeowner reported seeing the lion on Wednesday. Officers monitored the situation and, when it became apparent that the cougar had no interest in vacating the premises, decided to use non-lethal means to force the animal to move on.

When the cougar returned to its day bed, officers hazed it again Friday morning firing several shotgun rounds of rubber slugs and buck shot. The animal immediately ran from the area. Officers then inspected the day bed and found a partially consumed elk calf which the lion had been feeding on over the past several days. They removed the carcass.

“We anticipate removing the carcass will reduce the chances it will return again,” said Terry Thompson, regional communications manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Hopefully, it’s learning that this location is not the best place to be.”

Regional Conservation Officer Josh Royse said the large male lion was becoming too comfortable living in the urban environment and needed to be encouraged to move on. Officers initiated the hazing, he said, in hopes that the lion would associate a negative and somewhat painful interaction with choosing to stay in the valley.

“We are concerned with what appears to be increasing situations of lions becoming less fearful of humans, he said. “When lions don’t react as we would expect them to, there will be times we need to take actions like we did today.”

Senior Conservation Officer Clark Shackelford said non-lethal means like that used Thursday and Friday can sometimes be a very effective deterrent to make wildlife leave an area. He added that officers will continue to monitor the area over the coming days and consider more aggressive methods to reduce the risk to public safety if necessary.

Idaho Fish and Game officers told Ketchum City Council members on Monday night that they wanted to try hazing to discourage the cats from hanging out in the valley.

The rubber buckshot wouldn’t harm the cat, said Regional Wildlife Manager Mike McDonald. He said only Fish and Game officers and Ketchum Police officers would be able to do the hazing, given a city ordinance against the discharge of firearms.

“Just to be clear, hazing may or may not work at encouraging the lion to leave the urban area of Ketchum,” said Thompson. “It’s a valid tool to use, but only time will tell if we were successful in encouraging the lion to move on. We may need to be more aggressive if the hazing doesn’t work, as we hope.”

At least 44 lions have been sighted or implicated in incidents in the Wood River Valley since early August. Lions killed three dogs and wounded two more between Dec. 14 and 21 in Indian Creek, near Gimlet Road and Highway 75, in West Ketchum near Wood River Drive and at residences in Ketchum’s Warm Springs area near the dog park.

A lion is also believed to have killed a cat in Hailey’s Northridge subdivision in early December.

Lions don’t normally cause issues in the Wood River Valley until the end of January or even February. Not only have they become more aggressive but the normally nocturnal animals have been seen out and about in the middle of the day.

The Wood River Valley hasn’t been the only area of Idaho to report mountain lion attacks this year.

A lion killed a dog near its residence near Cascade on New Year’s Eve. Three days later, a lion attacked and partially ate a German shepherd mix near its home about a mile from the first residence.

A hunter killed a young adult male mountain lion believed to have attacked that dog after hounds treed the lion. The remains of the dog were found cached behind the residence.

Wood River Valley residents are encouraged to report mountain lion sightings to the Magic Valley Regional office at 208-324-4359. Incidents involving attacks on pets or people or incidents causing a lion to flee or back down should be reported immediately to that number or to the Blaine County Sheriff at 911 or 208-788-5555.


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