For the week of February 10, 1999  thru February 16, 1999  

Local dog and cougar dead after weekend incident

Express Staff Writer

A dog and mountain lion are dead following another mountain lion attack on a pet, this time in Ketchum.

Garnett Street resident Gary Vinagre said Friday night a mountain lion jumped over a fence, crossed his 20- to 25-yard-wide backyard and killed his dog, which was housed in a separated garage.

Vinagre reported that following the attack on his dog and after scaring the cougar away by yelling at it, he armed himself, for protection, with a 12-guage shotgun he owns for small-game hunting before going into his yard to retrieve the dog’s remains.

With the dog bagged and loaded in the back of his Suburban, Vinagre returned to his house to call the police. Shortly thereafter, the cougar returned to the yard and stood five feet from Vinagre’s back door.

Vinagre said he opened the back door to yell and again scare it away. When he did, the cat growled back at him and then started running across the yard. Vinagre said he decided to shoot the shotgun near the cat in an attempt to scare it further. He shot in the cougar’s direction and then heard it jump over a fence in the dark.

The following day, Vinagre told the police that he did not know whether or not he hit the animal. It was found dead in a neighbor’s yard shortly thereafter. The cause of death was a shotgun blast.

The cat, a male, was estimated by Fish and Game officials to be four or more years old, weigh 117 pounds and to be a healthy animal.

On Saturday night, Vinagre said, new mountain lion tracks were left in his yard.

"We’ve lived in this house for 27 years," he said, "and haven’t ever seen signs of substantial mountain lion activity like this before."

Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer Lee Frost said he has never had mountain lion calls from that part of Ketchum before.

"It’s one of those unfortunate things that happen," he said.

Frost said the past two years have witnessed an increase in local mountain lion activity. Prior to last year, he said, it was much lower.

Frost said the increase in activity is probably because there are some additional lions in the area.

"The prey base in this area is healthy and these females are bringing off healthy litters," he said. "But they’re not the type of animal that will overpopulate into the stratosphere. They are self-regulating animals."

The reason for the increase of recent domestic kills, Frost said, is that during this time of year, (cougars) aren’t terribly selective.

"As they make their rounds, whatever they come across, they will take," he said. "It’s not like they’re out there feeding on strictly domestic animals to survive."

Frost said the aggressiveness that Vinagre experienced was the result of an instinct cougars have to protect their kill.

"It’s not so much aggressive behavior but defensive behavior," Frost said. "A lion will defend its kill in a similar way that a tom cat will when facing off with another cat."

The Fish and Game defines aggressive as a cat actually going after a person, Frost said.

But Vinagre expounded on the incident’s proximity to his home.

"You expect something like that in the mountains, on a trail, not in your backyard."


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