By BLAKE NICHOLSON
Associated Press Writer
A mountain lion caught in a bobcat trap in western North Dakota was killed after a unique attempt to save it.
The effort was the first time the North Dakota Game and Fish Department had brought a live cougar in from the wild, and the first time Bismarck's Dakota Zoo had taken in an animal straight from the wild.
"It's a very significant departure on how we handle wild animals," said Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the Game and Fish Department. "We manage for populations, not individuals. Typically, the welfare of one animal is not going to have a big impact on the population of the animal you're managing."
Kreil said the special effort was made this week because of the opportunity to put a tracking radio collar on the adult female, which furbearer biologist Dorothy Fecske estimated to be at least 10 years old. The department has a collar on only one other mountain lion - a 2-year-old male that was caught in a bobcat trap last November.
"Having an adult female with a collar on it would have been very, very valuable in terms of learning about seasonal and daily movements of animals," Kreil said.
The lion was actually caught twice. The animal, which was trapped in a bobcat snare northwest of Grassy Butte, had the remnants of another trap around one front paw, Kreil said.
Officials with Game and Fish, Dakota Zoo and Theodore Roosevelt National Park on Sunday went to the site, tranquilized the cougar and brought it to Bismarck. Fecske said the animal's condition was stable Monday night, but the next day officials concluded the lion was not likely to survive because of its injuries. It was euthanized Tuesday afternoon.
"The snare was very tight and cut off circulation to (one) paw," zoo director Terry Lincoln said. "When the vet looked at it, it was determined that the paw would not come back around as far as (the cougar) being able to walk on it."
Lincoln said the mountain lion was housed in a quarantine area to guard against disease, and that zoo staff took a "very hands-off approach" with the animal.
"It was pretty calm, pretty quiet. It wasn't unduly stressed," Lincoln said.
It was the third documented mountain lion death this year linked to a bobcat snare.
In January, two young male mountain lions were found in bobcat traps in North Dakota's badlands, also in the Grassy Butte area. The first had to be killed because of its condition. The second was dead when it was found.
"We're going to be visiting with the two trapping associations in the state to discuss ... ways to potentially reduce incidental catches of lions," Kreil said.