Officials: Mountain lion takes up residence on Greenbelt

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by Justin Corr

NWCN.com

Posted on October 7, 2012 at 4:37 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 9:48 AM

BOISE -- Numerous reports of a mountain lion on the Greenbelt over the past few days have Fish and Game officials especially concerned.

"We have lions in town pretty much all the time," said Evin Oneale, Regional Conservation Educator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

It may be unsettling for some people that four-legged predators are almost constantly prowling around the Treasure Valley's Greenbelt. However, Oneale says the four sightings of likely one mountain lion this past week, is evidence of something more worrisome. "We have lions passing through town pretty much all the time. What we usually don't have is a lion that takes up residence, and that's our concern associated with the one we're seeing now."

Wildlife experts say cougars are normally solitary animals that are wary of humans. Oneale says for some reason - perhaps he's just following the deer pushed out of the mountains by the busy fire season - this cat is now apparently living in Boise.

"I think it's a safety factor," said Sheila McNeill, who we found taking her daily bike ride on the Greenbelt.

She says she isn't too worried about seeing the cat when she's in a group, in the middle of the day. "But, I wouldn't want to be here early morning, or at dusk by myself."

McNeill lives in Southeast Boise, and sees wildlife around her property all time. She knows to keep her fenced yard clear of heavy brush, pet food, and trash, all which might attract deer and their predators, mountain lions.

"That's my own personal level of hygeine," she said. "I probably would never, ever tolerate a garbage can like that. It's a given, right?"

Oneale says if everyone uses common sense, the Greenbelt's resident big cat shouldn't create a problem.

"It's not something for folks to be panicky about," he said. "It's just a matter of being aware of your surroundings, and knowing that there's a lion in the area. And, just use a little bit of extra caution."

Oneale says if you do find yourself face-to-face with a mountain lion, it is best to just slowly back away, and not run.

The Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game has a zero-tolerance policy with mountain lions in Boise, and if officers find it, they'll likely shoot and kill it.

Oneale also says, he doesn't think Boiseans will see a lot more mountain lions in town. He believes a little bit of moisture and green in the hills should draw much of the deer, and their predators, back up there.

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