KALISPEL — This winter, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks killed three adult mountain lions from Wild Horse Island State Park in conjunction with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
FWP has received reports of lion sightings from landowners and visitors and indicated that the lions are habituated to humans. The presence of several lions on the island, which spans 2,163 acres at the south end of Flathead Lake, has created a public safety issue due to high density and habituation.
Additionally, FWP and CSKT were concerned about the impact on one of the nation’s most conservationally important Rocky Mountain sheep herds, which have persisted disease-free on the island for nearly a century. Although Wild Horse Island provides high quality habitat that supports a sheep population that has produced some of the largest rams in the world, there is no escape ground for mountain lions.
Over the past half century, more than 560 sheep have been moved from Wild Horse Island to establish new flocks and augment existing populations across the United States. Last year, FWP moved 26 bighorn sheep from the island to the Tendoy Mountains in southwestern Montana to help re-establish a herd. in this domain. See the attached document for more information.
Bears and lions have been sporadically documented on the island over time, but the density and habitual behavior of these three lions warranted their removal, according to FWP and CSKT wildlife managers.
For more information on the translocation history of the Wild Horse Island herd, see the attached document. Please note that it does not include the most recent translocation.
“In addition to prioritizing public safety, we felt it was important to protect one of the few disease-free bighorn sheep herds because of the role it plays in the greater conservation of the species in North America,” said Neil Anderson, FWP regional wildlife manager. “Due to the lack of escape ground for bighorn sheep and the number of lions on the island, the bighorn sheep population has been reduced to numbers we haven’t seen in decades.”
“Cougars and other cats, such as bobcats, are of significant cultural importance to tribal members and are not hunted on the Flathead Indian Reservation,” said Kari Eneas, wildlife manager at CSKT. “Our puma populations are healthy, and in this unique situation, we have considered the habitual behavior and animal density of all wildlife species on the island in our decision to cooperate with FWP.”
Montana is home to a healthy and hardy population of mountain lions. FWP has a long-standing policy against relocating a regular mountain lion. Previous research shows that lion movements largely fail to prevent the lion’s return, or create new territorial conflicts with other lions. The removal of lions from Wild Horse Island has no impact on the overall population in northwestern Montana.
Lion pelts and skulls from Wild Horse Island were transferred to CSKT for educational purposes.