By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
The talk of Saratoga, Wyoming, this weekend was an elusive mountain lion whose tracks were spotted not too far away from the Hobo Hot Springs pools.
Police Chief Mike Morris told Cowboy State Daily the proximity of the predator to the public pool, which was full of people at the time, and the time of day are what prompted officials to treat the report with a little more caution.
“We have mountain lions around, that’s nothing new,” Morris said. “But one morning last week they had the report of the deer carcass just north of the hot springs there.
“There’s kind of an alignment. I’m not aware of whether the deer was killed by the mountain lion, but there was certainly a mountain lion that had been with the carcass.”
Wyoming Department of Game and Fish removed the carcass right away and observed mountain lion tracks around it, he said.
“That afternoon, 3:30-ish, we had a report that the mountain lion was seen at the spot where the carcass had been,” Morris said. “That’s 3:30 in the afternoon, just a few dozen yards away from the hot springs. That time of day, that close to people, it was just a little concern that it wasn’t showing much fear for all the people around.”
Scouting With Drones
That a mountain lion was willing to venture so close to a noisy public area in search of a deer kill prompted officials to bring out a couple of drones to see if there’s any kind of pattern to the movements.
So far, however, the mountain lion has managed to avoid detection by the drones.
Other than the one sighting and the deer kill, the only other signs have been tracks in the snow here or there.
Morris said Game and Fish is taking the lead on the monitoring the cat and its likely whereabouts.
“There’s been talk about possibly trying to live trap it, or get in position where we can tranquilize it,” Morris said. “We’ve been kind of watching it. We haven’t been able to get a real pattern on it, other than like, a couple of nights ago, we did have a couple of yards that had some cat tracks in it.”
Plenty Of Wildlife
Being at the base of a mountain, wildlife is an expected sight around Saratoga, local resident Janelle Urista told Cowboy State Daily.
“It’s God’s country, and part of that is we have mountain lions,” she said.
And not just mountain lions, but moose, deer and bears are not uncommon.
“If you go around, we’ve got what’s called town deer,” Steve Garetson, the store clerk at Family Dollar, told Cowboy State Daily. “They’re all over the place.”
Garetson recalls waking up one morning to find a moose in the front yard looking into his house. By the time he could grab a camera, though, the visitor had slipped away and was out of sight.
“We don’t usually get (mountain lions) in town, but we know they’re around,” Melina Griffin told Cowboy State Daily. “They’re pretty scared of everybody, so they pretty much stay way from, you know, public areas.”
Mountain Lions Tough To Spot
Mountain lions typically are nocturnal, and elusive. They’ll stay hidden from humans who, being upright, can seem like imposing prey, perhaps more than they really are.
Whisper Bunch, who was walking her dog near the Hobo pools on the day the mountain lion’s tracks were spotted, stumbled onto the site before the deer carcass had been removed.
She told Cowboy State Daily she wasn’t too worried.
“I feel like there’s so many deer around here for them to eat, I don’t think they’d want us,” she said.
Still, she did take a slightly different way for her walk that day.
“I haven’t walked the trail again, but I went to the Hot Pool since then,” she said.
What To Do If You See A Mountain Lion
One of the best strategies for someone encountering a mountain lion is to spread out the shoulders and try to appear as large as possible.
“Don’t run away,” Morris said. “That could trigger the prey drive on them, for an attack. Be noisy. And certainly, give us a call, so we can hopefully take some steps to remove the cat and get it somewhere that it’s not in opposition with people.”
Morris said the department will continue to work with Game and Fish to keep an eye out for the mountain lion.
“I won’t take anything off the table, because I am very concerned about the fact that it was around people,” he said. “But I mean, first thing I’d like to do is, if we could, I would like to see if we can relocate him.”
Other options, Morris indicated, would be considered mainly as a last resort and only if necessary.