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Mountain lion in Great Falls (update)

Mountain lion in Great Falls
Surveillance video shows mountain lion in downtown Great Falls
Surveillance video shows mountain lion in downtown Great Falls
Man records mountain lion wandering in Great Falls
Posted at 1:19 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 10:56:51-05

NOTE: As of 7 p.m. on Thursday, we have not received any confirmation that the mountain lion has been captured and/or killed. Several people have posted a photo of an unconscious/dead mountain lion in several Facebook neighborhood pages, but none have been verified at this point. Neither GFPD nor FWP have publicly commented or released any statements today about the mountain lion.

A mountain lion has been making the rounds in Great Falls this week. We have seen reports that some people claimed to have seen it near Benefis Health System (east campus) early Thursday morning.

The first report of the mountain lion came on Monday night in the vicinity of 8th Avenue North and 10th Street, and more sightings were reported on the north side early Tuesday and into Wednesday.

The Great Falls Police Department says mountain lion was seen early Wednesday morning near 6th Avenue North and 21st Street. Patrol officers investigated the sighting and saw tracks in the snow.

The mountain lion has also been seen downtown. Surveillance cameras at the Great Falls Rescue Mission show the mountain lion behind the Cameron Family Center at 5:54 a.m. on Wednesday at the ReStore building before it headed down the alley to a trash enclosure for a little stop. Then it went down a driveway at the Cameron Family Center and walked by the administration office of the Rescue Mission entrance before crossing 2nd Avenue South.

In addition, a woman posted on Facebook on Wednesday morning that she saw the mountain lion overnight on home surveillance video in the alley of 5th Avenue North and 19th Street.

The big cat also stopped by the O'Haire Motor Inn, home of the iconic Sip 'N Dip Lounge. Surveillance cameras caught the mountain lion walking by the front door and wandering around the courtyard:

The GFPD says: "Please be cognizant of your surroundings, including looking up into trees. And, be sure to keep a close eye on small pets. If you see the wild feline please call 911 with the location and direction of travel. If you have a chance to safely keep an eye on the large kitty please do until officers arrive."

(JANUARY 18, 2022) Matt Winkle was driving in Great Falls on Monday night and saw what he believed to be a mountain lion.

He shared a brief video with MTN News of the mountain lion, which was in the vicinity of 8th Avenue North and 10th Street.

Winkle said in a Facebook post: "I first saw it cross 9th st right at the bridge. Tried to tail it, lost it around 11 st and 6th ave... Cops swarmed the area, but I had lost sight of it by then. It ducked into an alley and went in someone's yard. Then vanished...."

Winkle told MTN on Tuesday: “Well, I saw it run across the road and initially it was coming from the dog park over to the Cascade Electric building. And I see deer do that all the time, so I thought it was a small deer, but it was moving weirdly. And then when it stopped and turned its head back toward me like cats do, it was like, holy crap, that’s a mountain lion.”

Man records video of mountain lion in Great Falls

Several other people have commented that have seen a mountain lion in town within the last several days.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks say it’s uncommon to see mountain lions in city limits, but also that it is not unheard of.

FWP Region 4 spokeperson Dave Hagengruber says mountain lions have been reported in town before, but it is rare and says people don’t have to be overly concerned: “Generally, in regard to mountain lion distribution, if there’s deer in the area, pretty much anywhere in Montana, it would not be unheard of to have a mountain lion. So while it’s rare, certainly to have one within city limits, it’s not unheard of."

He also advised what to do if you encounter a mountain lion, regardless of where you are: “Any predator like that, I think it goes without saying, but give them room. Certainly don’t approach the mountain lion. Make yourself larger, make yourself big. Put your hood up over your head. Wave your arms, yell, make lots of noise. Let them know that you’re not a deer. If you’re in a vehicle, stay in your vehicle. Blow the horn, make some noise. The lion’s going to take off. They don’t want a run-in with humans, so if you give them the chance, they’ll escape. I am almost certain it’s just a transient lion passing through looking for something to eat.”

The National Park Service provides the following guidelines if you encounter a mountain lion:

  • Do not approach a lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Do not run from a lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so that they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
  • Do not crouch down or bend over. A human standing up is just not the right shape for a lion's prey. Conversely, a person squatting or bending over resembles a four-legged prey animal. In mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
  • Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
  • Fight back if attacked. A hiker in southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son. Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal
  • Bear Spray. Carry bear spray with you while hiking. Although it is called “bear” spray, the pepper powder will work on just about any wild or domestic animal that attacks.

Residents should report any possible mountain lion sightings immediately to law enforcement or to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.