Personnel with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks combed the area surrounding Hawthorne School on Monday, after someone reported seeing a mountain lion in the area, but found no sign of the predator.

Bear and mountain lion management specialist Jamie Jonkel said this time of year will bring wildlife of all kinds down to the valley floor, and where there is prey such as deer, predators such as mountain lions, will follow.

" We have this lovely alert system, but as happened today, the information turns out to be unverified," Jonkel said. "I guess if folks are really wanting to know about lion activity, we have a great website called Missoula Bears dot org. On that website, you can file a report or call me directly." he said.

Jonkel said a large percentage of alleged mountain sightings turn out to be incorrect.

"About 80 percent of our calls come back to be just house cats," Jonkel said. "And, then we get people showing us the tracks where the 'lion' walked by and they're dog tracks. The big thing with the lion is the tail. When you see that tail, it's just like a big old house cat's tail. Sub-adults can be 40 to 50 pounds, adult females can be closer to 80 pounds, and the adult males bigger than that."

Jonkel said a mountain lion's track is very distinctive, as well.

"The tracks are just a dead giveaway, they're just like a big, giant housecat track, but much bigger," Jonkel said. About the size of a coffee cup or bigger. Most of the time people who think they're seeing a mountain lion track are just seeing a dog track with the nails and a triangular pad."

Jonkel again emphasized the use of the website Missoula Bears dot org as the best way to report a mountain lion or bear sighting, for the fastest response from the proper authorities.

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