A mountain lion was dispatched by Idaho Department Fish and Game in the town of Lava Hot Springs just before midnight on January 4.
Bannock County Sheriff’s Office notified Idaho Fish and Game at 6:47 pm Friday night that a mountain lion had been observed walking through Lava Hot Springs, even coming within several feet of people according to multiple reports.
Tara Potter of Lava Hot Springs and her family were driving up Main Street around 6:40 pm after spending some time at the public hot pools located in the middle of town. Tara’s 12-year old son said, “Mom, there is a mountain lion!”
Tara responded to her son, “No. There wouldn’t be a mountain lion right in town.”
However, both she and her husband, Nick, quickly saw that their son was right. They observed a mountain lion crossing the street, headed toward the public hot pools. Nick used his vehicle to block the pathway to the pools. The lion stopped and turned to look at them.
“We could see one of its eyes was messed up,” Tara said.
According to Tara, the lion made its way to the Lava Spa Motel parking lot before disappearing.
By 6:43 pm, Tara had called 911.
Tyler Peterson, a conservation officer with Idaho Fish and Game, and a deputy from the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office responded, but the cat had slipped out of sight and was assumed to have moved on.
“At that point, we thought that the cat was gone for the night and we wouldn’t be able to continue the investigation until the morning,” Peterson said.
However, at 11:00 pm, Peterson was notified that the cat had returned and was sitting at the corner of the post office in Lava Hot Springs, allowing passers-by to take pictures of it.
This time Peterson, two Bannock County deputies, and an officer with the Idaho State Police responded and discovered the cat was on the move down a side road in town. As they approached they could see that the female mountain lion was malnourished, weighing at most 60-70 pounds, and was injured. It had a gash below its left eye and appeared blind in that eye.
Once authorities determined that a safe zone of fire was established, the animal was dispatched.
Peterson says, “This was truly a team effort. Without the calls from the public and the assistance of Bannock County deputies and Idaho State Police, I am not sure that the end result would have been the same. It took different eyes in different places to help us track this cat in the dark through town. Thanks to all who helped.”
Idaho has an abundant and sustainable mountain lion population, but when lions become too comfortable near people, it creates a potential public safety hazard. Fish and Game officials are unwilling to take that risk and let them wander freely in towns. Idaho has never had a recorded incident of a mountain lion killing a person.
Two human fatalities by mountain lions occurred in Oregon and Washington in 2018, along with numerous other incidents of mountain lions encroaching in populated areas in Idaho.
Mountain lion incidents in 2018
Lion found in schoolyard in Southwest Idaho (killed)
Two mountain bikers in Washington attacked by a lion, one killed and the other injured.
Lion killed in chicken coop in Hayden.
Lion shot in backyard near Best Avenue in Couer d’Alene by a resident.
Hiker killed by lion in Oregon
Hunter attacked by lion in Utah (survived)
Tips for people who might encounter a mountain lion
- Do not run.
- If you are with children, pick them up without bending over.
- Do not turn your back on the lion, crouch down, or try to hide.
- Remain facing the lion and slowly back away. Leave the animal an escape route.
- Try to appear as large as possible — stand on a rock or stump, hold up your arms, stand next to others.
- Shout, wave your arms, and throw objects if the lion does not leave the area.
- Fight back if a mountain lion attacks. Stay on your feet and use sticks, rocks, backpack, hands to fight back. Use bear spray if you have it.
- Never approach a mountain lion or offer it food.
Here is more information about dealing with mountain lions, including how to avoid attracting them to your property.