Mountain Lion Stalks Tot in Montana Campsite
Harpers Lake Fishing Access Site in the Blackfoot Valley near Missoula, Mont., was the scene of an encounter between campers and a mountain lion Monday night (July 23).
The site remains open, but a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) wildlife specialist is camped on site to respond to additional sightings and kill the lion if possible, the Billings Gazette reported.
FWP biologist Jay Kolbe responded to the initial report of Monday’s lion encounter at 9:15 p.m. and arrived on site shortly after. Kolbe said the call came from the mother of five children who were camping on the north end of the Harper’s campground.
The mother reported that the lion was seen crouched and watching her 4-year-old child from a distance of about 20 feet. The child and nearby adults and children yelled at the lion, and although it did not approach closer, it remained nearby, even after repeated attempts to scare it away.
Kolbe was joined on site Monday evening by FWP wildlife conflict specialist Bob Wiesner with lion dogs, but the dogs were not able to follow the lion’s scent. FWP continues to attempt to capture and kill the lion, due to its unusual and aggressive behavior.
“Normally a lion that crosses paths with someone will leave the area after an initial attempt to frighten it away, but its behavior in this case is extremely unusual and merits extra precautions,” said Mike Thompson, FWP regional wildlife manager.
Thompson said that Wiesner will camp at the Harpers Lake site through the weekend to discuss the situation with campers and to provide an immediate onsite response, day or night, if needed.
FWP has also received other recent reports of lion sightings in the area, and reminds all campers, anglers, hikers and others that Western Montana is mountain lion country, and now is a good time to review what to do if you cross paths with a lion.
General tips for an encounter with a lion call for not running from or approaching the lion. Give the lion room to leave the area, and immediately pick up small children. Face the lion, talk in a calm voice, enlarge your image as much as possible and remain standing. If a lion attacks, fight back.