Cougar kills dog, injures another in Surprise Valley (w/911 call)

kterhune@idahostatesman.comMay 22, 2013 

A mountain lion is pictured at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is searching for a mountain lion that killed one dog and injured another May 21 in Boise.

PROVIDED BY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

— State wildlife officials are searching for a mountain lion that killed a dog in Boise Tuesday, but say it may have already left the area.

Another dog in the Surprise Valley neighborhood was injured, but survived, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

A Surprise Valley homeowner had let her two Yorkshire terriers into the fenced backyard at around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday when she heard them yelping, according to Evin Oneale with Fish and Game.

When the homeowner went to check on the pair, she spotted a mountain lion crouched on the fence. As she watched, the lion leaped onto one of the dogs, Oneale said.

The homeowner ran into the house to get something with which to fend off the cat. When she returned, the cat and one of the dogs was gone. The other lay injured in the yard.

The dog’s owner took the pet to a veterinarian and called the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, who notified Fish and Game.

The owner originally identified the cat as a bobcat. But an officer who measured bite marks on the living dog said the bite was much too large, and identified the attacking animal as a mountain lion, Oneale said.

Officers later found the body of the second dog near the house, bearing similar bite marks.

Oneale said the cat was likely a young male.

The cat may have already moved on from the area, he said. No additional attacks were reported Tuesday night or Wednesday, and cameras set up Tuesday only caught photos of joggers, dogwalkers and one coyote.

“It’s not necessarily a problem,” he said. “We have mountain lions in town all the time.”

It is rare that they attack pets, however, he said.

Oneale urged anyone who spots a lion or whose pet has a run-in with a wild animal to alert Fish and Game.

“We need to hear about this as quickly as possible,” he said.

This is the first reported mountain lion attack of 2013, Oneale said. It follows a spate of cougar attacks on pets last year.

The recent drought may be responsible for the current mountain lion’s presence in town, Oneale said. As resources thin in the mountains, mule deer filter into Boise looking for food. The mountain lion is likely just following its prey base, he said.

“If we have the opportunity to get it treed … we can probably get a dart into it and take it out that way,” he said. But if the lion is discovered in town, it will be up to an officer’s discretion on whether or not to kill the animal.

Fish and Game has sent an alert to the Surprise Valley homeowner’s association, urging its members to keep a close eye on pets.

Pets belonging to two neighbors of the Surprise Valley home have also been attacked by animals this year in unrelated incidents, Oneale said.

Next door to the Yorkshire terriers’ owner, a man’s Scottish terrier received puncture wounds in early May from a fight with an animal the owner described as the size of a fox.

And in late April, another family’s terrier was found mauled to death by an animal. That attack was not reported to Fish and Game, Oneale said; it's not clear what animal was responsible for the death.

Oneale suggests accompanying your pets outside and keeping smaller animals in the house as much as possible.

“This is obviously a cat that is very wary of people, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Cougars very rarely attack people, he said. He cautioned area residents to be cautious, but not panic.

“You need to worry about a kid that is texting and driving more than a mountain lion in your backyard,” he said.

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