One adult lion and her three kittens had to be killed by a Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden on Monday after the lions killed two dogs in the Grant Creek neighborhood in Missoula.
According to FWP wildlife management specialist Jamie Jonkel, the adult killed a 35-pound dog on Sunday. Wardens then decided that, due to safety concerns, she had to be removed. Wardens killed two of the kittens on Monday, then tried waiting for the adult and kitten at the spot where the dog's body had been cached.
However, they got a call from a distressed family that the lions had attacked and killed a second dog, and a game warden was able to kill the lions while they were feeding. Jonkel said the mountain lions had to be removed for safety reasons. Both instances happened near a school bus stop for young children, but Jonkel said the children were safe.
"It's sad," Jonkel said. "Unfortunately, with the colder temperatures, she must have gotten a little desperate trying to feed three kittens. She would have been safe if she had just kept to hunting deer and elk."
Grant Creek residents interviewed Tuesday were appreciative to FWP for their swift action after the first dog's death, though still a little uneasy about being out after dark or in the woods near where the attack took place.
Gail Maehl, who has a small cockapoo, said the dog usually roams behind their house, which has no fence. She's now keeping a careful watch for predators when the dog is outside.
"What's most disconcerting is not that (the lions) are out there, it's that they're so aggressive," Maehl said.
Though she lives a bit up from the wooded area around Grant Creek where the attacks happened, Maehl said she and plenty of people go walking in that spot and let their dogs run off the leash.
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"Going forward I'm not necessarily afraid," she said. "Just aware."
Jonkel said that mountain lions can't be safely trapped and relocated like bears once they start associating human enclaves with food.
"There have been mishaps in the past with trapping lions," he said. "We trap and relocate bears, but not mountain lions. They behave completely differently from bears."
FWP Region 2 manager Mike Thompson said there are quite a few mountain lions living in the Missoula Valley, and they usually avoid humans and dogs.
"The family was pretty concerned about it," he said of the second family who lost a dog. "There's quite a few around. They are very common. What's uncommon is for them to show themselves and for them to get used to living around humans."
FWP wardens removed a mountain lion in the Rattlesnake in 2015 after it ate a dog.
Margie Costa thought since so many people in Grant Creek are out jogging or walking in the morning or evening in the dark when mountain lions are out, they're in just as much danger.
"Pets and people, yeah, it's a concern," Costa said. "We're kind of in their habitat so we have to be conscientious."