BILLINGS – A 41-year-old Florence, Mont., man shot and killed a young mountain lion after it stalked his father on a hunting trip near Boulder.
Late last month, 64-year-old Duane Cole and his son Shane were in the Elkhorn Mountains when Cole says he spotted the crouching mountain lion staring intently from about 10 feet away.
“I could tell he was ready to launch,” said Duane Cole, a Colstrip parks and recreation supervisor.
He tried to scare off the animal by shouting and throwing a stick at it. The cat retreated briefly and Cole called his son, who was hunting nearby. The cat kept staring at the father and, when the son arrived, climbed onto a boulder about 35 feet away.
The son was initially reluctant to shoot it because he was worried it might have kittens nearby. The two decided to walk on.
“We’d gone about 50 to 100 yards. I was paranoid at that time,” Duane Cole said. “I looked back and saw it coming in fast and low, straight at us from behind.”
He yelled to his son who turned and shot the lion, hitting it on its side as it turned. The cat ran about 50 feet and then died.
A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden identified the cat as a juvenile, about 6 feet long from head to tail and weighing around 100 pounds.
Earlier in the hunting season, a mountain lion was shot and killed after a run-in with another hunter near Wise River.
“We have a couple a year,” said Sam Sheppard, Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden captain in Bozeman.
Those confronted by a mountain lion should stand tall, talk confidently, not turn away and fight if attacked, he said.
“All the things we tell people with bears, it’s the opposite with lions,” Sheppard said.
Rich DeSimone, a state wildlife biologist who has studied mountain lions in Montana for years, said he has heard stories similar to Cole’s over the years but said there has never been a hunter killed by a mountain lion in the Rocky Mountains.
Still, he said, he doesn’t begrudge hunters shooting the animals when they feel threatened.
Duane Cole said he was shaken by the encounter with the mountain lion.
“I’m 64 years old and hunted since I was a little kid behind my dad,” he said. “I’m a trail runner, backpacker and I’ve hunted by myself. I always heard they were more scared of you. I was 100 times more scared than it was.”