As the Wyoming school day dawned Thursday, a mountain lion approached an elementary school campus.
A neighbor across the road from the elementary Arapahoe School, in Arapahoe, spotted a mountain lion at about 8:45 a.m. and notified a staff member, said Roy Brown, superintendent of Fremont County School District 38.
The school sounded a campus-wide alert message telling children to go into stay-put mode, or stay inside, said Brown.
He said the children knew they had to stay indoors but were not immediately given details, and they seemed calm.
Brown said although the mountain lion was across the road from the school, he didn’t believe any children got a look at it because no students were outside during that time except for a few crossing the campus.
School authorities notified the Wind River Police Department, which is a branch of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Tribal Game and Fish. Brown believed both were still canvassing the area at 1 p.m.
“They’ve spotted it a couple times moving out of the area,” he said. “Last I heard, they were just monitoring the area for it.”
Brown lauded school staff and a new campus-wide alert system, saying, “I think we did a great job in keeping the safety of our students at the forefront of our concerns.”
There was more traffic at the school than usual Tuesday – it was primary election day for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, and the school was the voting center.
Not Many Beasts
The mountain lion appeared near the elementary school, which serves preschool through eighth grade students and is situated within the sprawling, sparsely populated Wind River Indian Reservation. The district also has a high school that’s about a mile down the road from the elementary school.
Encounters with wild animals are more rare than one would expect, said Brown. The last predator that came near the school, whose species Brown couldn’t recall, was spotted about four years ago.
Those Dogs, Though
Dogs are a problem on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Its two tribal governments have been trying to draft a stray-dog ordinance to give the federal police more authority to cite owners for errant dogs, but Brown said he hadn’t heard of any recent progress toward the ordinance’s passage.
A woman biking near Ethete on the reservation in April was mauled to death by multiple dogs.
Also, a Fort Washakie woman in 2014 died of dog injuries after being attacked by multiple dogs on the reservation.
“The dogs are an ongoing issue,” said Brown. “We have both pets that sometimes escape the owners’ property and come onto campus, and we have some stray dogs – a pack of stray dogs will sometimes come onto campus.”
Brown said that is a “high-end concern” for school administrators and staff. They have developed processes for what to do when someone spots a dog on campus, he said, adding that communicating with students and staff is key.
“It’s something we’re dealing with,” he said.
When the dog has an owner, school officials try to contact the owner and advise them to keep the dog on their property. When it’s a stray, they call the authorities.
“They have a limited ability to address the issue right now” without an ordinance, said Brown.