Three bold mountain lions were treed by hounds and shot Feb. 10 after they took up residence beneath a vacant home in Montana's Glacier National Park.
said they had to shoot the animals, whose under-the-front-porch den
was near two occupied houses and within 25 yards of a sledding hill
popular with local children.
"The risks to the
residents were extraordinary," said ranger Charlie Logan. "It was
an unsettling, uncomfortable and, I think, an unsafe
Logan said rangers considered trying
to relocate the cats but decided against it after mountain lion
expert Maurice Hornocker told them that success rates were low.
Rangers also considered trying to place the cats in a zoo, but no
zoo would take the animals.
It's unclear how long
the cats - a 135-pound female with two 100-pound-plus young - were
living under the house. But on Feb. 9, maintenance workers saw them
walk across a road.
"It could be they had been
there two nights, two months - who knows?" Logan said. Attracted by
white-tailed deer in the area, lions were last spotted in the
resident complex for agency staffers in early January. After the
cats hadn't been seen for a while, signs warning residents of their
presence were removed.
"The opportunity was
certainly there for the lions to attack kids and dogs, but for the
length of time they were there they didn't do that," said biologist
After looking at the crawl space
beneath the house, Logan estimated the cats had been using it for
about a week. Neighbors near the house said they never saw the cats
until they had been shot.
"We were lucky we
didn't have an incident," said Liz Hackman, park administrative
assistant, who lives near the vacant home with her 4-year-old
child. Sometimes they used a footpath that passes within five feet
of the house under which the lions were staying. "Part of me was
very relieved, but part of me was very sad that we had to destroy
the lions," she said.
"I think they made the only
decision they could under the circumstances," added Lisa Towery,
the park's personnel officer, who lives with her daughters, 14 and
9 years old, in the house closest to where the lions were denning.
"They didn't show any fear of humans."
had been seen repeatedly in the Apgar/West Glacier area since last
May, when they were spotted strolling through campgrounds. At one
point they came close to a tourist using a pay telephone. Logan saw
the family group later in the year walking at night beneath a
streetlight in the headquarters complex, and park spokesperson Amy
Vanderbilt once encountered the trio on a bicycle
At one point rangers decided to try to
capture the lions, but the opportunity never arose, and one lion
that was chased by hounds into the Apgar Mountains soon
outdistanced both dogs and rangers.
were treed by hounds, then killed with shotguns loaded with rifle
slugs and buckshot.
The carcasses were sent to a
laboratory in Bozeman for autopsy; the hides will be tanned for use
in park interpretive
Tad Brooks is managing
editor of the Hungry Horse News in Columbia Falls,