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FWP kills island pumas threatening bighorns

Wild Horse Island in Flathead Lake has lots of good grazing habitat but lacks the cliffs needed for bighorn sheep to escape predators. | Rob Chaney
KALISPELL, Montana (Missoulian) — To protect a rare population of bighorn sheep, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists recently killed three mountain lions on Flathead Lake’s Wild Horse Island.
The lions also appeared habituated to people, according to landowners and visitors on the 2,163-acre island. Given the regular tourist activity at a state park on the island and the lions’ impact on the bighorn numbers, FWP and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Wildlife Division agreed the cats needed to be removed.
“Due to the lack of escape terrain for bighorn sheep and the number of lions on the island, the bighorn population has been reduced to a number we haven’t seen in decades,” said FWP Region 1 Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson. The island has good vegetation to support the bighorns but lacks cliff structures they rely on to avoid the lions.
FWP transplanted two bighorns to the island in 1939 and six more in 1947, which became a source herd for translocations to many other parts of the Rocky Mountain West. Bighorns are extremely susceptible to infections from domestic sheep, so the island’s isolation has kept that population disease-free for decades. At least 560 bighorns have been moved from Wild Horse Island to augment or start herds elsewhere, including 26 in 2021 that went to the Tendoy Mountains in southwest Montana.
Wild Horse Island lies within the Flathead Indian Reservation, and is co-managed by the state and CSKT.
“Mountain lion and other cats, like the bobcat, hold significant cultural importance to Tribal members, and are not hunted within the Flathead Indian Reservation,” said Kari Eneas, CSKT wildlife manager. “Our mountain lion populations are healthy and, in this unique situation, we considered the habituated behavior and density of animals of all wildlife species on the island in our cooperative decision with FWP.”
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The post FWP kills island pumas threatening bighorns appeared first on East Idaho News.

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