Idaho officers tag & relocate young cougar roaming in neighborhood

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Idaho Cougar Relocated Because ‘He Feared People’

While the officers handled the situation perfectly, they misinformed the public by telling them cougars fear people because they are hunted by Idaho residents. Killing a cougar does not teach the rest of them anything. It’s like saying, “I burned an ant with a magnifying glass once as a kid, now all ants know to fear people and stay away from us.” The truth is cougars naturally avoid people whenever possible, but our housing tracts are popping up everywhere and an occasional encounter with wildlife is inevitable. Cougar attacks on people are extremely rare, even in places where the cats have not been hunted in decades, yet Idaho’s supposed “educational” cougar hunt will begin again in the fall…Mountain Lion Foundation

RUPERT — A male mountain lion gave a few early risers a start on Saturday when he sauntered down 11th Street in Rupert.

Thomas Poindexter, who lives on the corner of 11th Street and H Street, said he first spotted the lion at about 7:30 a.m.

“I was looking out my living room window with a cup of coffee in my hand, watching Rupert go by, when I saw this mountain lion coming north on H Street,” Poindexter said. “I rubbed my eyes because I didn’t believe it.”

Poindexter said at one point the cat stopped in a yard that was being flood-irrigated and got a drink of water.

“I called 911 and I thought, ‘They’re going to think I’m crazy,’” Poindexter said.

Jason Garner, who lives at 1017 H St. with his father, Max Garner, said police officers knocked on their door shortly after 8 a.m. to tell them a mountain lion was in their garage.

“They told me I had a nice little pet in my backyard,” Jason Garner said.

Rupert police located the healthy cat in the garage, tucked up under a boat. They then warned neighbors — including a family next door whose children were sleeping in a tent — to stay inside until Idaho Department of Fish and Game officers arrived.

“It couldn’t see us and was pretty comfortable,” Fish and Game Conservation Officer Chad Wittermann said of the mountain lion.

Minidoka County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Vic Watson said the mountain lion was also earlier recorded on video wandering through the back parking lot of the sheriff’s office.

Wittermann said the cat was 2 to 3 years old and weighed slightly more than 100 pounds.

“Most likely he was just passing through,” Wittermann said. “If we hadn’t darted it, it probably would have left that night.”

An officer certified to tranquilize animals had to be brought down from Carey, so the police and Fish and Game officers stood guard until he arrived. The animal was released deep into the mountain range south of Rupert.

It’s hard to tell where the cat came from because they have been known to travel hundreds of miles, Wittermann said.

Though mountain lions have the potential to be dangerous, he said, it’s very uncommon for one to attack a human.

“In Idaho they are hunted in the fall and winter so generally they keep their distance from humans,” Wittermann said.

People who do encounter one of the large cats should remain still and not run.

“Don’t approach it or give it any reason to chase you,” Wittermann said.

Laurie Welch may be reached at lwelch@magicvalley.com or 677-5025.

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