Golfers teeing off at Valley View Golf Club Friday morning had to avoid water hazards, bunkers - and a mountain lion.

Bozeman animal control officer Kathy Middleton said a lion was first sighted near Aspen Pointe senior living center on Highland Boulevard early Friday, and callers later reported that the animal had moved to the nearby golf course.

"They think it may be out in a tree somewhere on the golf course right now," Middleton said Friday morning. She had not heard of any additional sightings since the initial report, but said the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks had been notified.

Middleton said mountain lions prefer to "bed down during the day," and if the cat were still in the area, it would probably wait until later in the evening to move. However, Middleton speculated that the animal had most likely passed through. "He's moving," she said.

The Friday morning call was the latest in a list of recent mountain lion reports, Middleton said. FWP's Joe Knarr confirmed that FWP has received "a bunch of calls" lately about lions, "all through the south end of town." However, he said the office is often unable to respond because of a lack of timely reports.

"It's typical people report late. They see a lion and call when they get to work," Knarr said. "We like to hear about it right away."

While mountain lion sightings are a common occurrence in the area, Knarr said there has been more this year than in previous years. However, he maintains the increased reports are nothing unusual.

"Cats are always in the area here," he said.

Knarr said he believes it is important people know how to react if they encounter a mountain lion. Tactics include standing ground and not running.

If a mountain lion turns aggressive, Knarr said public safety is his primary concern. Aggressive cats are not relocated.

"Our policy is lions are not relocated. If we have to relocate, we euthanize," Knarr said.

Previous incidences include an encounter in the Sourdough-Triple Tree area in late May; a confrontation further east, near Bear Canyon; and four additional encounters in the Triple Tree area, including two last week, according to FWP's Kevin Frey.

The lion sighted Friday morning may have been the same lion that was reported in the area late Thursday night, Frey said. With the exception of a lion sighted late May in the southeast corner of Valley View, FWP officials have been unable to capture the animals. The cat captured in May was euthanized.

The euthanasia policy is a means to prevent further "aggressive encounters" with the same cat, said Julie Cunningham, FWP area biologist for the Gallatin-Madison area. She said the choice to euthanize is determined by "the nature of the threat, the severity of behavior," or if the animal does not display nervousness around humans. Cunningham also said FWP is concerned that a relocated cat may be continue to be aggressive towards humans.

"If they display visible behavior or are approaching people, we probably will remove them," Frey said.

Mountain lion sightings may be reported to the Bozeman Police Department at 582-2000


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