November 12, 2009
By KIM SKORNOGOSKI
Tribune Staff Writer
A Hays man recently shot a 200-pound adult mountain lion sprawled in a tree just 40 feet from his front door — further evidence that the big cats are moving into Montana's prairies.
Frank Weigand first spotted the lounging lion after his pet Pekingese alerted him to the animal outside his home in late October.
"I first thought it was a raccoon, but then I saw that long tail coming down," Weigand said.
Worried about the safety of his 14-year-old daughter and his 12-year-old niece, who frequently play in the front yard, Weigand fired a shot into the trees.
"The lion acted like it wasn't scared of nothing," Weigand said.
The cat was injured, so Weigand fired again, killing it.
Fort Belknap Fish and Game officers measured the cat at 28 inches tall and roughly 68 inches long from nose to tail. Based on its size, they estimated that the female lion was 2 to 3 years old.
Weigand believes the animal had been in the area for some time, as his two German shepherds were unfazed by the mountain lion's presence. Additionally, the lion's stomach contained house cats, meaning it probably had been preying in the area for awhile.
The mountain lion was the first one Weigand has seen near his house, which is about 5 miles north of Hays. His nearest neighbor is a half mile away. However, some of his neighbors and family members have spotted cats crossing the highway or roaming the area in the early morning hours.
Late last month, a hunter killed a 100-pound juvenile mountain lion that was stalking him and his son in the Elkhorn Mountains.
Meanwhile, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is closing mountain lion hunting in districts 404, 421, 444 and 450, which includes portions of Teton, Pondera, Chouteau, Cascade and Lewis & Clark counties.
The closure is effective as of a half hour after sunset tonight.
The order halting the hunt follows news that the pre-established harvest quota for lions was met in those districts. The districts will re-open for the hunting of mountain lions for the winter season, which begins Dec. 1.
For more information, visit FWP's Web site at fwp.mt.gov or call 800-385-7826.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://wwww.bigcatrescue.org