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Mountain lion

TWIN BRIDGES - A mountain lion that killed two dogs and attacked a third near here has been killed, the state wildlife department said.

Sam Shepherd, a warden captain for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the decision to kill the lion was made because it continued its abnormal behavior.

"There's an inherent risk of living next to the forest," Shepherd said. "But when it's repeated behavior, (a mountain lion) starts coming up on porches and there are children in the area, then we will come in and remove that cat."

Rich Lewis, a Ruby Valley houndsman, killed the lion under an agreement with Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The 5-year-old male cat killed one of Lewis's hounds during the operation June 1.

A necropsy found dog hair in the lion's stomach, and its paw prints matched those found at the scene where a dog had been killed and the lion had returned to feed on its carcass.

Problems with the mountain lion started in May.

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Curtis Ratcliffe, a homeowner in the Twin Bridges area, was hiking with his wife and black Labrador retriever when the dog - in timber and out of sight - was attacked.

"I just heard my dog give two excruciating yelps and by the time we found her, she was dead," he said.

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Another dog also was killed in the area, Shepherd said. In addition, several dogs have been reported missing, although those cases aren't confirmed lion kills.

Shepherd emphasized that removing mountain lions, bears or other animals when they are merely seen in the area of homes is not within Fish, Wildlife and Parks' policy. He said people must learn to live with predators and other wildlife, especially when building or buying land near wild country.

"We're not going to respond with houndsmen and dogs to kill every lion that somebody sees near their home," he said. "People choose to live in certain places and they need to take precautions to protect their children and their pets."

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