Just How Many Mountain Lions are There in Western Montana?
While at times unsettling, mountain lion sightings are not uncommon near the cities and towns of western Montana. Or even in town for that matter.
With that in mind, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists and experienced houndsmen will be conducting field work this winter in the middle and upper Clark Fork Valley, from Alberton to Haugen, to help estimate the number of mountain lions in the area, as part of a statewide strategy to monitor and manage lions.
The work is scheduled from early December through April 15, 2021. It's part of the Montana Mountain Lion Monitoring and Management Strategy, adopted in 2019, which calls for making periodic estimates of lion numbers in different lion management ecoregions of the state using genetically based field sampling. Montana FWP is in its second year of this population monitoring strategy. This year’s work will be the second of two estimates.
Why another estimate so soon? Well, the northwest lion ecoregion (FWP Region 1 and part of Region 2), is the area of Montana that has the highest quality lion habitat in the state.
To collect data, FWP biologists and local houndsmen use trained dogs to track, tree and dart mountain lions in order to take DNA samples that will be combined with other information to help biologists estimate lion numbers. Hunter harvest data, including DNA, from lion districts 122, 123, 124, 200, 201, 202, 203, 240 and the Missoula Special Management Area will also be collected this winter. Hunters that harvest a lion in one of these areas are required to check their lion in with FWP, where a genetic sample will be taken.
The goal of this new monitoring program is improve Montana’s ability to understand the effects of lion harvest and to manage lion numbers at levels that maintain a viable lion population that is in balance with other wildlife species and various public interests.
For more information, contact FWP field research lead, Molly Parks, at 406-542-5509.
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