Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Two More Dog Killings Leave Valley’s Dog Owners on Edge
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Friday, December 20, 2019
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

Sun Valley area residents are on edge after two more dogs were killed by mountain lions in the Ketchum area.

The attacks early Wednesday morning bring to three the number of dogs killed in the past six days by mountain lions. A fourth dog lost the use of its left eye in an attack.

The first attack on Wednesday occurred about 6:30 a.m. in the Warm Springs area near the dog park.

The homeowner reported he had let two dogs out only to find a lion had jumped the property’s six-foot fence. It attacked the Australian shepherd, leaving it with severe life-threatening injuries. The owner took it to the veterinarian where it was put down.

Idaho Fish and Game received a second call within a half-hour of the first of a larger dog found in a driveway on Short Swing Lane--directly across Warm Springs Road from the first incident--by a neighbor.

Idaho Fish and Game officers engaged the services of a hound dog who tracked the mountain lion across the street where it was living underneath a porch deck. Officers were able to corral the lion and euthanize it.

“The dog was able to pick up the scent of the lion from the dog that had been killed so we’re very confident it was the lion that killed that dog,” said Terry Thompson, communications manager for Idaho Fish and Game.  “It’s more difficult to confirm that it was the same lion that killed the first dog earlier that morning or that it was the same dog that injured the other Australian shepherd over the weekend in West Ketchum without a DNA test.”

A mountain lion killed a pudelpointer, breaking its neck, while it was in a fenced backyard on Canyon Drive, a block off Highway 75 four miles south of Ketchum on Sunday evening, Dec. 15. Fish and Game set up a trap in the yard, hanging a pronghorn quarter taken from roadkill. The pronghorn is a typical type of food for a mountain lion, said Thompson. There's also a small stuffed animal put in the trap where officers place a homemade concoction of various scents to attract the lions. But they removed it on Thursday after it there was no activity there.

”Cats will return to a kill site, especially if they have some level of reward,” Thompson said.

A miniature Australian shepherd was attacked at about 7:30 p.m. the night before in the vicinity of Bird and Wood River drives in West Ketchum after a homeowner let the dog outside in an unfenced area. The lion dropped the dog and ran off when it saw the homeowner.

Thompson said officers do not know how many cats call the Wood River Valley their home.

“But there are multiple cats in the Wood River Valley—the Warm Springs area is known for its lions,” he said. “We receive reports all the time from people who have spotted them via their security cameras or even seen them walking down the street in mid-day. Cats have been up here and are here—it’s not like we’re suddenly being invaded by mountain lions.”

More encounters tend to happen in winter time as lions move in from the mountains to prey on the resident elk and deer who hunker down in neighborhoods over winter. Cats will go after rabbits and squirrels.

“They’re opportunistic—they don’t know from day to day where their next meal is coming from. So, we can’t say cats are learning to prey on pets. But cats tend to have a strong prey instinct and, if they see even a small animal run, they’ll give chase,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he can’t think about of any cases where a lion has attacked a person in Idaho. Mountain lions killed a bicyclist and a hiker in North Bend, Wash., and Mt. Hood in 2018.  

But the vast number of mountain lion killings over the past several decades have taken place in California, Colorado and British Columbia with single incidents reported in Kentucky, Montana and New Mexico.

“I don’t know why you hear about so many cases in California. Maybe there are more lions per square mile. Or, maybe it’s because California no longer allows hunting of mountain lions so they’ve lost their fear of humans,” Thompson said.

Lack of actual attacks doesn’t mean Wood River Valley residents haven’t had encounters of the close kind.

Sloan Storey, a competitive cross county ski racer who works with kids’ programs at The Hunger Coalition, said she was walking her dog—a mid-sized mix of heeler and collie—at sunset in Draper Preserve this fall when she stepped onto the Bow Bridge and spotted what she thought was an adult cougar walking off the bridge on the opposite end.

She turned around to leave and spotted a mother cougar about 10 feet away. The mother perched as if it were getting ready to jump on Storey.

Then, as Storey froze, the lion looked Storey up and down and turned away.

“Then I did what you’re not supposed to do. I ran all the way home,” said Storey. “Fortunately, my dog remained surprising calm during the incident. And I think the fact that I froze, however short I might have done it, helped.”

Storey said she now avoids going out at dawn and dusk and, if she does, she confines her walks to neighborhoods, rather than the preserve. She also sometimes carries a stick.

Dog owners should keep their pets on a leash when they let them out to pee, Thompson said.

“Even if you have a fenced-in backyard go out with them—cats can jump as high as 12 feet. And go out with a light, even if it’s just a flashlight,” he added.

Children and adults who are confronted by lions should make themselves look as big as possible, yell and back away slowly. Throw objects, if you have them.

“Never turn your back on a lion, and don’t run,” Thompson said. “We don’t want to provoke their  instinct to chase. Stay calm. But if they do attack, fight back.”

Have an encounter? Call local law enforcement or Magic Valley Regional Fish and Game at 208-324-4359.

 

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