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Outfitter finds mountain lion cubs while tracking cat seen in Homestake Pass video

Mountain Lions
Posted at 12:03 PM, Feb 16, 2024

BUTTE — Video of a mountain lion running alongside a car outside of Butte recently prompted an outfitter to head out and find the big cat with his dogs, but what he found instead triggered his protective instincts.

"Everybody knew that there was a cat running down the highway. A lot of folks were hoping to pursue it. I don’t think anybody knew that it had kittens," says Scott Cargill, a co-owner of Montana Mountain Lion Adventures located near Whitehall.

Cargill says when he caught up to the lion he found two small kittens hidden in a rock pile. He called his dogs off, snapped some photos, and made a post on social media. The morning he and his dogs found the kittens, Scott says he saw several other trucks scouting and they were probably inspired by the same video that brought him to that spot.

He says if a tracker's dog caught a kitten, it could kill the small cat, and for ethical hunters that would be devastating.

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"As most hound guys do is, we tell everybody. Nobody wants to bother a female with little tiny kittens, you know? And so just for the betterment of the cat, leave her alone, is basically what I was getting at and let her and her kittens be in peace."

Cargilll has been tracking big cats in southwest Montana for decades, and he is one of several independent contractors working with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks on a lion monitoring program that gives the state an understanding of population densities.

"The really neat thing for me about lions is, most people won’t get to see a lion in broad daylight or ever and when you catch one with the dogs, you can look at it and really study it, and the best part is you don’t have to kill them," says Cargill.

Cargill likens his experience with hound hunting to that of a fisherman.

"You can look at it in the tree and take a lot of pictures and walk away, which is probably what 90 percent of mountain lion 'hunting' truly is. It’s just catch and release, you know? It’s like floating down the river," says Cargill.