Mountain Lions “Lethally Removed” From a Flathead Lake Island
A decision was made that involved cultural significance, human safety and preservation of another Montana wildlife species.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that three adult mountain lions were lethally removed from Flathead Lake's Wild Horse Island State Park. The action was taken in collaboration with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
After receiving reports of lion sightings from landowners and island visitors this winter, Montana FWP determined that the three lions were habituated to people and created a public safety issue due to habituation. And of course, they also posed a major threat to a another precious wildlife resource on the island with little opportunity to escape predation.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep have lived disease-free on the island for nearly a century. In the past 50 years, over 500 sheep have been moved from Wild Horse Island to establish new herds and enhance existing populations across the United States. A recent example is last year, when Montana FWP moved 26 bighorn sheep from the island to the Tendoy Mountains in southwest Montana to help reestablish a herd in that area.
Although Wild Horse Island provides high quality habitat that supports the sheep population, its terrain provides no escape strategy from mountain lions or other large predators that may find their way onto the island.
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe wildlife management conceded that while mountain lions and other cats hold significant cultural importance to Tribal members, and are not hunted within the Flathead Indian Reservation, the mountain lion populations are healthy. Therefore in this situation, it was determined that the habituated behavior made lethal removal the correct decision and reason to work in cooperation with FWP.
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