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Blaine County resident Cynthia Woolley Kearns captured these images of a mountain lion out on the prowl directly outside her front door in January.

The Magic Valley Fish and Game Office has experienced a steep increase in calls about mountain lion sightings and encounters in the Wood River Valley following last month’s heavy snowfall.

Most lion sightings have been reported by residents north of Hailey, the office reported last Friday. While no attacks on people or pets have been reported yet, the office is urging residents to keep their dogs and cats leashed or indoors when possible.

The recent uptick in lion sightings can be explained by the increased number of deer and elk—lions’ preferred prey—heading down to their preferred winter ranges. Elk herds, for example, were seen close to road-level in residential Ketchum neighborhoods this week.

Regional Conservation Officer Josh Royse said in a press release that it’s helpful when residents alert Fish and Game officers to mountain lion tracks and cached prey.

“Our goal is to make sure that people and their pets stay safe, and that predators, like mountain lions, continue their natural movements through our communities,” he said, “which they will do if we do not encourage them to linger in town or in our backyards.”

Encounters should be reported to the Magic Valley Regional Office at 208-324-4359 during business hours, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and after-hours calls can be directed to your local police department or the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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