A young mountain lion entered the home of a sleeping couple early Wednesday and was killed by a deputy sheriff after it walked through part of the residence.
“I’ve had them under houses, on porches and on top of roofs, but never in the house,” said Erik Wenum, a state game-damage specialist who responded to a call from the home of Lester and Marilynn Aasheim, 12 miles northwest of Kalispell.
The Aasheims were in bed at about 1 a.m. Wednesday when they heard noises.
“I heard loud thump and padding sounds, like someone was walking in the house,” Marilynn Aasheim said.
The couple followed the noise into the kitchen and saw that the screen from an open window was on the floor, dented. Water was running and there was an unusual smell.
The Aasheims decided an animal, probably a skunk, had entered the kitchen through the window left open because of the heat.
“We could hear it downstairs, bumping into things,” Marilynn Aasheim said.
She stood at the top of the basement stairs while her husband, carrying a flashlight, went around the outside of the house and looked through windows. Then, as Marilynn Aasheim looked down the stairs, she saw a mountain lion, looking back at her.
“It was kind of calm-looking,” she said.
“I didn’t dare yell.”
Aasheim loaded his hunting rifle, and the couple called the sheriff’s department. Seventeen minutes later, Wenum arrived with two sheriff’s deputies.
The Aasheims waited in a nearby shop while Wenum and the deputies tried to encourage the lion to leave the basement. They opened the basement door and stacked furniture to create a funnel toward the door, but the cat holed up beneath a computer desk.
Wenum prepared a tranquilizer dart, but the first dart missed the animal and it ran into a bedroom. Wenum went back outside and cut open the screen to the bedroom window for a second shot with the dart gun. The cat was upset and fled the bedroom, almost running into a deputy. He shot the animal from a distance of about 7 feet. The cat died beneath an exercise bicycle.
Wenum said the lion was a female, about 10 months old and 55 pounds or so.
In wandering through the residential area, the cat upset some dogs, one of which broke its chain and gave chase. The cat probably was trying to avoid the dog when it dashed into the Aasheims’ kitchen, Wenum said.
The neighborhood is a few miles south of the Kuhns Wildlife Area, which is a winter range for whitetail deer, the chief prey of mountain lions.
North of Great Falls, a 100-pound female mountain lion named Cleo was reported missing Saturday from her pen at a home. The owner believes she was stolen. The Cascade County Sheriff’s Department has been investigating.
“People don’t have to be too concerned,” said Undersheriff John Strandell. “The cat is tame.”
She belongs to Kenneth Krueger, who purchased the lion from a game farm and has a state permit to keep her.
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