POCATELLO — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game recently trapped and relocated a juvenile mountain lion that had been repeatedly visiting a home near Gibson Jack Canyon.
IDFG spokeswoman Jennifer Jackson said the department set up a trap in the resident’s yard on Feb. 22, after receiving a call that the mountain lion had been spotted there several times throughout the course of a few days.
The department used a deer leg from a roadkill as bait, she added.
Jackson said the resident notified the department on Feb. 25 that the mountain lion had been captured.
“We took her away and released her to a remote location where she can make her living as a mountain lion without hopefully coming into conflict with people,” Jackson said.
Jackson said the mountain lion was a 75-pound female just shy of 2 years old — which is still old enough to live on her own. Typically, the department finds reports of conflicts with mountain lions involve juvenile animals, which she explained are still learning how to survive in the wild. The young mountain lions are often drawn to the urban interface areas by the relative ease of hunting deer, turkeys and other wildlife that have become exposed to residential areas and have lost some of their natural defenses, she said.
She said the animal did not disturb anything on the property. Jackson said the department chose to relocate the mountain lion to avoid the potential for conflict with people, as well as the possibility that the mountain lion might seek to hunt a house pet.
“It’s not our practice to go out and trap every single wild animal every time somebody calls about it,” Jackson said.
Officials have also responded to a few false reports of mountain lions in the area recently. Last May, Fish and Game officers darted and removed a lion from the Red Hill area of the Idaho State University campus. Several false reports have been made to authorities since then.
Last Friday, Pocatello Police responded to a reported mountain lion sighting near Red Hill by setting up a thermal imaging device. Police said the device confirmed the presence of a large house cat, which had apparently been mistaken for a mountain lion.
Jackson offered tips to help people properly identify mountain lions before making a report. She said adult mountain lions are tawny to grayish in color, weighing up to 200 pounds. Their tails can be up to 3 feet long and appear rope-like — not bushy — with a black tip.
Tracks can be up to 4.3 inches long and 4.8 inches wide and are often confused with dog prints. Jackson explained mountain lion tracks have a round bottom pad with three lobes, unlike dog tracks that have oval pads and two lobes. Furthermore mountain lion tracks have one toe visibly larger than the others and possess no claw marks.
She requested that callers be at least 50 percent sure they’ve seen a mountain lion before notifying her department.
Jackson does not believe the mountain lion population is any larger than normal. She said the department recently finished gathering public comment used for setting hunting seasons of big game, including mountain lions, and will review proposals for setting seasons in March.