Friday, April 5, 2013

Cougar lingering in East Fork area

Fish and Game says cat is not aggressive


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

In this photo by East Fork resident Kathy Lynn, a cougar walks along a creek near the Hyndman View neighborhood. Courtesy photo by Kathy Lynn

East Fork resident Judith Walker said that when she pulled into her driveway on Thursday, March 28, and her headlights hit the shining eyes of a cougar, she knew exactly what she was looking at. She had just flown in from a month-long African safari.

Residents near Hyndman View Drive and Canyon Drive, about two miles up East Fork Road past the intersection with state Highway 75, say they have had a pesky feline visitor throughout the winter. Hyndman View resident Kathy Lynn said the cougar has been showing itself during the day.

“I had never seen one before and it was pretty spectacular,” she said.

Lynn said she saw the cougar early last week during the evening, and that she has heard reports from a number of neighbors who have seen the wild cat in their backyards in the daytime.

Walker said that even though she has never seen the cat during the day, she was startled to find it in her backyard last week. She said she saw the cougar jump out of a neighboring pasture to the top of her fence, where it sat and stayed, watching Walker and her dog enter the house.

“He just got back up on the fence and watched me pull into the garage,” she said. “He wasn’t the least bit scared of me. He just stared me down.”

Walker and Lynn said they called the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office to investigate. Lynn said she understands that East Fork is cougar habitat, but she worried about the cat’s proximity to people and animals.

“I have lived here for 31 years and this is the first time I have thought, “Hmm, this is a difficult situation,’” she said. “[Cougars] are beautiful, but when they’re lurking around your backyard, you kind of go, ‘Ugh!’”

Jim Ferguson, the Department of Fish and Game’s district conservation officer, said the department was supportive of someone hunting the cat but the hunting season on mountain lions is now closed.

“The cat has not been aggressive, to my knowledge,” he said.

Though a small dog was killed by a cougar near Triumph in December, Ferguson said his department can’t be sure it’s the same one. Still, he said, pet owners should keep dogs on leashes.

“We haven’t had any indication that this animal is aggressive in any way,” he said. “Just be wary, be alert and make yourself visible.”

Walker said she has been following this advice and keeping an eye on her Australian shepherd-airedale mix when she lets her out.

“[The cougar] would just snap her up like a snack,” she said.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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