Mountain Lion Believed to be Habituated

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Date: March 27, 2015
Contact: Denise Germann, 406-888-5838

WEST GLACIER, MT. –An employee of Glacier National Park has received a citation for failing to comply with regulations regarding control of pets within the park. The employee's dog was involved in a fight with a mountain lion on Saturday, March 21. After the mountain lion had the dog pinned down, a park ranger shot the mountain lion and killed it.

Based on an investigation of the dog-mountain lion incident, it was concluded the employee did not maintain control of the pet. It was also determined that the ranger that shot the mountain lion acted appropriately. The ranger involved in the incident is also an owner of the dog. The investigation concluded that the ranger, or any other ranger, would have acted in the same manner due to the rapidly evolving circumstances of the situation.  

Glacier National Park Chief Ranger Paul Austin said, "The sub-adult mountain lion displayed characteristics of habituation.  The cat failed to flee the developed area after housing residents yelled and screamed, and rocks and logs were thrown at the cat. Austin said, "We take this incident seriously, as many children were playing outside in the housing area at the time of the incident." 

 Austin said, "While we are all passionate about protecting the amazing resources of Glacier National Park, the first priority for our rangers must be for the safety of our employees and visitors."   

The park headquarters and employee housing area have been posted for mountain lion frequenting over the winter months. A mountain lion was hazed this winter in the employee housing area after observations of the animal near homes and offices.  

Park rangers believe additional mountain lions may be frequenting the headquarters and employee housing area. The park will continue to implement actions in the area as appropriate, including posting the area to mountain lion frequenting, educational outreach to employees and visitors, area and/or trail closures, hazing and possible removal. These actions are consistent with park management plans.  

Park housing residents are allowed to keep pets while living in government-owned structures in the park. According to park management directive, resident employees must comply with the same rules as visitors.  

Pets are allowed in developed areas of the park, including frontcountry campgrounds and picnic areas, along roads, in parking areas, and in boats on lakes where motorized watercraft are permitted. The entire headquarters area of the park is considered a developed area. Pets are not permitted on trails, along lake shores, in the backcountry, or in any building. Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, under physical restraint, or caged at all times, including while in open-bed pickup trucks.

Glacier National Park is home to mountain lions. If there is an encounter with a mountain lion, visitors and employees are encouraged to make noise and do not run. Talk calmly, avert your gaze, stand tall, and back away. Unlike with bears, if attack seems imminent, act aggressively. Do not crouch and do not turn away. Lions may be scared away by being struck with rocks, sticks, or by being kicked or hit. Lions are primarily nocturnal, but they have attacked in broad daylight. They rarely prey on humans, but such behavior occasionally does occur. Children and small adults are particularly vulnerable. Report all mountain lion encounters immediately to a park official.   

History of Incident 

At approximately 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, a park employee returned to her residence and upon opening the car door, her two dogs unexpectedly raced out of the car. The employee followed after the dogs and observed one of the dogs in a fight with a mountain lion near the resident's yard. The other dog was quickly retreating back to the employee.   

Other housing residents heard the dogs, lion and employee yelling, and ran to offer assistance. A shovel was briefly used unsuccessfully to separate the mountain lion and dog. The animals tumbled over an embankment near the Flathead River. Another housing resident arrived with bear spray and began throwing rocks and logs. The mountain lion pinned down the dog near the river's edge.  

A park ranger arrived at the scene and shot the mountain lion. The dog broke away and jumped into the river. After confirming the mountain lion was down and wasn't moving, the park ranger entered the river to bring the dog to safety.  Others helped to get the injured dog to the river bank.  

The dog was transported to a veterinarian. After many stitches and wound care, the dog is anticipated to fully recover.

Last updated: March 30, 2015

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West Glacier, MT 59936


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