Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game defends decision to euthanize cougar

Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game defends decision to euthanize cougar

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is standing by its decision to euthanize a cougar found in a tree in Coeur d’Alene Monday.

The decision was met with backlash, as hundreds of KXLY viewers took to our Facebook to ask why the cougar was put down instead of being relocated. Jan Armon works near where the cougar was found and asked animal control officials if the cougar would be euthanized Monday.

“They said no. They relocate it. Cause everyone was asking, everyone was a little concerned about it,” Armon said. “I think everybody was very shocked when they learned on the news that the animal had been euthanized.”

Armon said she was disappointed by the department’s decision to put the cougar down.

“I was really sad. And I know people are gonna be like, ‘it’s a wild animal and it’s in city limits,’ but I think there’s other options. I think there were other things that could’ve happened,” Armon said. “It looked like a very healthy, younger cougar and I don’t think we’re so overpopulated with cougars in this area that it couldn’t have been saved.”

Biologist Jim Hayden with Fish and Game said the two-year-old cougar was presumed to be healthy and seemed to be looking for a new territory. He said the department didn’t want to take any chances by relocating the cougar, since it could eventually find its way back to the area, or another highly-populated city.

“With their movements, they can move very long distances to return to an area that it’s familiar with, and if it had indeed set up a territory in Coeur d’Alene, then that was a very high probability or high possibility,” Hayden said. “So just to err on the side of human safety, we were really unwilling to take that risk.”

Hayden told KXLY4 if the cougar was moved to another area, they would risk moving it into another animal’s territory, which would bring an even lower chance of survival. He also said the department typically euthanizes mountain lions found within city limits.

“The lion was in an area that was surrounded by office buildings, lot of people in the area. The adjacent building had 500 people in it for example,” Hayden said. “Even if we moved it over 50 miles, if it’s kind of figured out, ‘hey, where people live, there’s dogs, there’s cats, there’s rabbits, there’s all kinds of food, then that becomes kind of a pattern it can establish.”

Hayden said euthanizing the cougar was the safest option for those in the area.

“Anytime you have mountain lions and people interacting, you do have the recipe for a very difficult situation, either a serious injury or death.”

Hayden told KXLY4 there has been an uptick in cougar sightings in Coeur d’Alene. He believes this stems from a growing cougar population, with more cougars looking for new territories. If you come across a cougar, Hayden said it’s best to make yourself big, make a lot of noise and back away slowly.