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For the week of Oct. 6, 1999 through Oct. 12, 1999

Cougar shot in Ketchum


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

A small male cougar was shot by a Ketchum police officer Saturday after it reportedly threatened a dog at a home on Garnet Street.

Roger Olson, regional conservation officer for the Department of Fish and Game, said the 65-pound cat was probably about a year old and appeared to be in very good condition.

Another, larger, cougar was shot by a homeowner in the same neighborhood in February. A second cat was seen shortly after, but Olson said he doubted that was the one shot Saturday since it would be bigger than 65 pounds by now.

Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland said his office received a phone call at 5:37 a.m. on Saturday from the Garnet Street resident stating that the cougar appeared threatening to the couple’s dog and that when they tried to scare it off it climbed a tree. Nevland said he attempted to contact a Department of Fish and Game officer to get advice, but couldn’t reach anyone.

"I made the decision to have the officer shoot the cat," Nevland said. "I told him the most important things were that the shots could be fired safely and that the animal didn’t get away wounded."

Nevland said the Ketchum officer, who used a .12-gauge shotgun, was backed up by a Sun Valley police officer while he shot the cougar.

Olson said the cat is in a freezer and will probably be sold at the department’s annual spring auction.

Olson said he is developing an area-wide protocol for what to do with cougars who wander into towns. He said he hopes to meet with local police chiefs this week to get their input. He said he doubts there will be any general public involvement in the process.

"You could debate it forever," he said. "We need to figure out what needs to be done for the majority of people."

Olson said he expected the police chiefs to get some input on the subject from their city leaders.

He said any action taken against problem cougars would probably require killing them, since tranquilized cougars cannot be released for at least 30 days during hunting season. He said he presumes that is because their flesh could be harmful to people if eaten.

Olson said he received a couple of reports this week about a cougar spotted along the Big Wood River near Deer Creek.

In what was probably the first mountain lion attack on a person in recent Idaho history, an 11-year-old boy was reported mauled by a starving cougar on Sept. 11 while he was camped on a beach along the Salmon River upstream from Riggins. According to the McCall Star-News, the cat tore a two-inch by one-inch gash in the boy’s forehead and punctured his shoulder and back.

According to the paper, the boy’s father "drove the cougar off the boy by punching it, then threw sand in its eyes when the cougar refused to back away after releasing the boy."

The cat was killed by a hunting outfitter accompanied by Fish and Game officers, the paper said. Fish and Game officers told the Star-News the approximately 18-month-old cat weighed only 47 pounds, much less than the 80 to 100 pounds expected for a cougar of that age.

Olson said he knew of no other cougar attacks on humans in Idaho.

Nevland said some local residents have become afraid to go out at night and to let their children or pets out due to the presence of cougars.

"I think the police have a duty to relieve them of that fear if it can be done safely," he said.

But, he added, "there isn’t any doubt in my mind that we’ll have an attack by a mountain lion. It’s just a matter of time."

 

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