GILLETTE, Wyo. – For the first time in years, two adult mountain lions and possibly a third were sighted within city limits this week and it remains unclear why they were in the area, a wildlife official said Friday.
The lions were all sighted between March 29 and March 30. The first lion, an adult male, was initially seen moving through the Chara Hills subdivision in southeast Gillette and was captured later the same day on Kendrick Avenue by wildlife personnel and local law enforcement, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The other lion- possibly accompanied by its sub-adult offspring- was sighted in the early morning hours of March 30 near the Bell Nob Golf Course, game and fish says.
The adult male was relocated to a remote area away from people, according to Christina Schmidt, WGFD regional information and education specialist, who said that the whereabouts of the other lions are unknown.
Schmidt says the residential sightings were the first she’s heard of in Gillette during her five years working for game and fish, and she hasn’t heard of any local conflicts with people nor could she say for sure what the animals were doing in the area.
In general, mountain lions move around a lot and tend to travel large distances. Sometimes, people just happen to spot them while they’re on the move, Schmidt said.
Geographically speaking, mountain lions have a broad habitat range. They can persist practically anywhere that provides adequate prey- generally deer- and cover, per game and fish.
“Tall vegetation or rugged terrain sufficient for concealment provides the necessary hiding and stalking cover for securing prey and raising young,” according to mountain lion identification course material from WGFD.
In Wyoming, prime mountain lion habitat is associated with the state’s mountain ranges, though lions have been seen in places like the Red Desert, native grasslands, and along Wyoming’s eastern border, game and fish says.
“Much of Wyoming is mountain lion habitat; they periodically move through residential areas,” Schmidt said, adding that it is highly unlikely the lions were looking to stay or a place to raise their young and were most likely just moving through.
Other mountain lions have been reported in the area in years past. One was euthanized by game and fish personnel in 2012 east of North Gurley Avenue for public safety after it appeared the lion intended to set up shop in Gillette, local news reports say.
It is possible that more mountain lions have moved through the area than what’s been reported, according to Schmidt, who says people don’t always call and report sightings.
If a mountain lion is seen, Schmidt says the public is encouraged to call and report the sighting to local law enforcement or to WGFD.