Snares were set Saturday at four locations along the Boise River near Garden City in the hopes of capturing a cougar that’s become a menacing presence along the Greenbelt.
The traps will remain in place through at least this weekend, but the expert who set the traps — groups of snares at least 50 yards from the Greenbelt on private property — had not seen any fresh signs of the cat as of Wednesday.
“He should be finding tracks or scat,” said Todd Grimm, Idaho director of the U.S. Department ofAgriculture Wildlife Services. “Today he said, ‘I’m getting the feeling this lion is gone.’
“I hope he’s right.”
If the mountain lion lingers and walks into one of the snares — designed to close around his neck and choke him — it will die quickly, Grimm said. The traps are being checked twice a day.
Officials say there are four trapping areas west of Glenwood Street on both sides of the Boise River. Each trap area has three to four snares.
“We find areas where just a cat is going to go into, in the brush,” Grimm said.
Officials believe cougars follow the river and/or deer into the Treasure Valley. If they stick around too long and get habituated to city life, they become a nuisance that must be removed.
In May, a 2-year-old female weighing 50 pounds that had been seen near Boise State University and Julia Davis Park was shot and killed. In September 2011, a male cougar of similar age and size was shot and killed in Boise’s Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center parking lot.
Grimm declined to reveal what lure is being used to attract the cat, other than to say it isn’t food. There’s some concern the public might tamper with the traps, which is illegal.
Evin Oneale, a spokesman for Idaho Fish and Game, said the traps are not a danger to people walking the path, but warnings have been posted to remind people to keep dogs leashed.
The area for the traps was chosen because cat tracks, scat and a bed (in brush) had been found. It’s also not far from Garden City’s Meadowcreek subdivision, where a mountain lion jumped a 6-foot fence and attacked a dog Oct. 18.
Tracking a cougar in an urban area isn’t as easy as in the wild.
“You’re not going to find them if you’re just walking up and down the Greenbelt,” Oneale said. “They’re very secretive, and cats don’t smell very much. The best time to hunt cats is right after fresh snow. If you see tracks, you dump the dogs out.”
Since the first week of October, there has been a flurry of cougar sightings along the Boise River — sometimes more than once in the same day and at different locations.
Many of the sightings were unverified and probably weren’t cougars, said Oneale.
Earlier this week, a man walking along a canal near Ridgecrest Golf Course told police that he saw a mountain lion following him. The fog was thick that morning.
“There was no cat in Nampa on Monday — it was a house cat,” Oneale said.
Oneale said that when officials respond to a mountain lion sighting and find a house cat anywhere near the area, they know the reporting party probably erred.
“If there’s a mountain lion in the area, there’s not going to be any house cats. They are very afraid,” said Oneale.
Anyone who knows what a cougar looks like can’t easily mistake it for anything else, he said.
Grimm said the trapper working for Wildlife Services believes that the cougar had been feasting on feral cats living along the river. He doesn’t believe the mountain lion intended to tangle with the dog.
“I’m thinking the cat was in the process of fleeing something else — and jumped into that yard for cover,” Grimm said. “Maybe it’s done it many other times, and it hasn’t been filled with dogs.”
An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 cougars live in Idaho, primarily in the mountains. Cougar attacks on livestock or humans are very rare.
“Coyotes and wolves occupy most of our time,” Grimm said.
Black bears are a distant third on the nuisance list. But cougars that take up residence in populated areas are a concern.
“You’ve got a large predator and a lot of people using this area for recreation,” Grimm said. “It’s not a safe situation.”
Katy Moeller: 377-6413