Residents throughout the Wood River Valley continue to see and report mountain lions frequenting their yards or are seeing them on their security cameras. Since October 1, 2022, the Magic Valley Region has received 85 calls about mountain lions in the Valley, with a majority of those calls coming from Hailey residents. While most of the calls are observations, Fish and Game is aware of non-fatal attacks on several dogs and residents becoming increasingly concerned about lions taking up residence in their neighborhoods.
Over the past several months, conservation officers have responded to these reports by providing safety information to homeowners, and when possible, using non-lethal hazing that includes using rubber slugs and buckshot, aerial cracker shells and pepper balls shot from an air rifle. All of these tactics are used in an attempt to encourage the mountain lions to leave the area.
Conservation officers have also been extremely busy removing numerous lion-killed deer and elk from neighborhood yards to reduce the chances of a surprise encounter with a lion protecting its food source.
Conservation officers can only respond and investigate reports of mountain lions in and around Wood River Valley communities and neighborhoods if reports are made by residents. It is crucial that residents continue to report mountain lion sightings, as well as any encounters or missing pets, to the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 so that officers can continue to monitor the behavior of the lions and assess potential risks to public safety.
East Hailey lions
The number of mountain lion calls from the area of east Hailey began to increase in early March, with at least one female and young frequenting area homes, often during daylight hours and day-bedding in yards, often in large trees. Conservation officers attempted to haze these lions, when possible, but many reports were received well after the lion was sighted, making efforts to haze the lions impossible.
In early March, Fish and Game received a report of a female lion with young frequenting a home in east Hailey. It appeared to investigating officers that the lions were consistently moving around the home. Officers worked with the homeowners to reduce the potential for the lions to daybed near the residence.
In mid-March, a Hailey woman was leaving her home when she found herself face-to-face with a lion on a deer that had been killed in her front yard. In the encounter, the lion did not retreat, but instead acted aggressively towards the woman who then retreated back into her house.
Biologists have become concerned that mountain lions have become habituated to living within Hailey neighborhoods. Residents have indicated that they are not comfortable knowing that the chance of an unexpected encounter with a mountain lion is ever-present around their homes.
These incidents and encounters with lions are increasing. It is not desirable for lions to live in and around neighborhood homes, especially when lions do not flee when encountering people.
After repeated reports and efforts to haze the lion from around east Hailey homes, Fish and Game made the decision to trap and remove the lions.
With permission of homeowners, on Thursday, March 16, three large live traps were placed adjacent to two houses where the lions were frequenting.
On Friday, March 17, biologists found that one of the young lions had been trapped. The adult female and reported second young lion were not trapped or observed.
In anticipation of the trapping, Fish and Game officials began to seek potential sites that would accept young lions, such as an accredited zoo. On Friday morning, after the young lion was trapped, and after no suitable location could be found, the decision was made to euthanize the lion.
Fish and Game by general guidance does not relocate predators. While some may view relocation as a preferred alternative, the most likely outcomes when relocating a habituated large carnivore such as a mountain lion all have negative outcomes, such as: it returns to the area where it was trapped; it is killed in a territorial dispute or by a dominant animal already occupying that space; or it starves.
History of lion removal in the Wood River Valley
The last time a mountain lion was euthanized in the Wood River Valley was in in January 2020 when a large male lion was removed for public safety as it ran throughout the Woodside Subdivision. At the time of the incident, school children were being released from the local grade school. Fish and Game officers attempted to haze the lion out of the subdivision, but the lion began to exhibit increasing levels of aggression. To protect the public safety of Hailey residents and their school aged children the lion was euthanized to eliminate the risk to people.
In December 2019 a mountain lion was euthanized after it killed two dogs on the same morning in Ketchum, in the area of Warm Springs. The lion was tracked to an adjacent house where it was found under the deck of the home.
In January 2019 a mountain lion was euthanized after it killed a dog in Ketchum in the area of Warm Springs.
Euthanizing an animal
Ultimately, when lions or any other wildlife becomes a public safety issue, the most humane and responsible option, particularly when dealing with predators, is often to euthanize it, but that isn’t a decision that Fish and Game staff takes lightly.
“Our Fish and Game staff, working with Wood River Valley partners has put a significant amount of energy into education and outreach about how residents and visitors can be responsible and safe when around wildlife” Magic Valley Regional Supervisor Craig White said. “As wildlife biologists, we dedicate our careers to managing healthy and robust wildlife populations, and the last thing we want to do is euthanize an animal.”