Mountain lions occasionally wandering into urban areas is nothing new in Wyoming, but there’s been a recent flurry of big cats taking to the streets, though it’s not certain whether that’s because of the harsh winter, a predator expert said.
“These types of situations aren't as clear cut as we'd like them to be or able to be extrapolated across the state or West,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily.
With terrible winter conditions driving prey animals, such as deer, into settled areas, mountain lions might be following, he said. Or it could just be because of the animal’s natural pattens of movement.
In the latest incident reported early Thursday, the Natrona County School District sent out an alert after a mountain lion was reported on the east side of Casper near Manor Heights Elementary School.
Cynthia Leverich saw the mountain lion and managed to get a photo from her vehicle, which she posted to Facebook.
“Holy hannah (sic), big ole cat walking past Manor Heights on 15th,” she posted. “Already notified emergency services.”
Cats Popping Up All Over
It was one of several recent metro lion incidents.
A Sheridan resident reported seeing a mountain lion April 5, but that report turned out to be unfounded, according to Game and Fish.
Recent reports of mountain lions in Gillette were genuine.
After bouncing around Gillette for a couple of days, but somehow eluding authorities, a large male mountain lion was finally cornered and tranquilized in a backyard near downtown March 29. The cat was taken back into wild country and released.
Just two days later in Gillette, two more mountain lions were reported on the south side of town, but evaded capture.
Kenton Paton on March 27 posted photos on Facebook of what was possibly a mountain lion on the outskirts of Cheyenne.
That report wasn’t verified. But in November, a Cheyenne couple found a female mountain lion taking a morning nap in their basement windowsill. Game and Fish wardens shot it with a tranquilizer dart. They pulled it through the window and carried it out through the house before taking it to be released in nearby mountains.
In March, a mountain lion crept up on a couple soaking in a hot tub in a remote Colorado subdivision and swatted the man in the head. He suffered only minor injuries and refused medical treatment. Game wardens searched for the big cat in the nearby forest, but couldn’t find it.
And in January in a Colorado Front Range town, former Denver Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe tracked down and killed a large lion that had been harassing a neighborhood.
Don’t Turn Your Town Into A Predator’s ‘Hot Lunch Program’
Wild animals, including large predators, frequently show up in Wyoming neighborhoods because of where many human settlements were built, Thompson said.
“Mountain lions go where their food is, which is deer and elk, and they also use river corridors and riparian systems to travel between habitats of higher suitability,” he said. “Most Wyoming cities, hamlets and towns are built on these natural travel corridors.”
Making deer feel a little too welcome in town can cause big cat trouble, he added.
“The strong majority of mountain lions simply keep moving on, but some find easy prey in deer, especially town deer that have been habituated to people,” Thomson said. “This is why we are not proponents of urban deer and against feeding deer, especially in towns. An easy food source may make a transient mountain lion more likely to linger. I call it the ‘hot lunch program.’”
Part Of The Job
There has been an uptick of mountain lions reported in settled areas in recent years across the West, Thompson said. Game wardens respond to each report according to circumstances.
“Sometimes it's a matter of letting an animal move through, other times it requires further efforts such as capture,” he said. “If we feel there are any direct human safety threats the offending animal is going to be euthanized – this may seem blunt, but it is the truth.”
Anybody who thinks they’ve spotted a mountain lion in their neighborhood should keep away from the cat and report it to Game and Fish as soon as possible, Thompson added.