Several sightings of a mountain lion within city limits created pandemonium around LaBonte Park on Wednesday afternoon.
“I got the call around 2:45 p.m.,” Wyoming Game and Fish Senior Game Warden Bill Brinegar said. “There was a mountain lion spotted by a day care by LaBonte Park.”
While Brinegar couldn’t confirm any of the sightings, a picture of the animal was posted to Facebook at about 3 p.m. and the Laramie/Albany County Records & Communication Center dispatch reported receiving about seven calls regarding mountain lion sightings.
“This is the first (predator) sighting I know of this season,” Brinegar said. “It’s not rare to get a mountain lion or bear in town because the Laramie River is a migration corridor.”
Several agencies, including the Laramie Police Department, Albany County Sherriff’s Office, Laramie Parks and Recreation Department personnel and about seven Game and Fish personnel, conducted a search of the area, but after an hour-and-a-half with no further sightings, Brinegar said the search was called off.
“Laramie doesn’t have a lot of deer in town,” he said. “Without a good prey base, there’s no real reason for it to stick around.”
In situations where mountain lions come into contact with people, Brinegar said there is little concern if the animal is healthy, but a sick mountain lion could be dangerous.
“Typically on a deal like this, a mountain lion is not going to have a lot of food here,” he said. “Once night falls, it will most likely get out of town, because mountain lions don’t like interactions with humans.”
When pursuing wildlife sightings in communities, Brinegar said Game and Fish usually attempt to contact the last person to see the animal, confirm the legitimacy of the sighting and determine the direction of travel.
Before leaving the area, he said game wardens and biologists often check any tall trees or overgrown grassy areas to determine if the animal is still hiding nearby.
“There are so many big trees like conifers or cottonwoods in Laramie,” Brinegar said. “They like to climb up and hide during the day.”
If the animal is found, he said Game and Fish attempt to shoot the animal with a tranquilizer dart and move it to a safer area.
“We see this all the time — moose, black bear and mountain lions,” Brinegar said. “We tranq them and move them into a less populated area.”
A multi-media alert was put out about 3:30 p.m. warning people of the sighting.
“The LPD had great intentions when they put the alert out — they wanted people to know about the possible danger,” Brinegar said. “But the way people reacted — there were easily 100 people and kids out in the park looking for the animal with their cellphones in hand.”
The influx of people likely scared the mountain lion into another area, making capture and release nearly impossible, he said.
“People need to be a little more cautious and respectful of large carnivores,” Brinegar said. “You’re not going to outrun even a sick mountain lion.”
While the multi-media alert advised to keep pets indoors, he said that was likely not necessary.
“Mountain lions are afraid of dogs,” Brinegar said. “If you have a barking dog in your yard, it’s probably going to avoid it.”
Instead, he said people should go indoors or avoid the area and call Game and Fish at 877-943-3847 to report the sighting.
“With this call, there is no reason to believe it’s aggressive towards humans,” Brinegar said. “But it’s certainly out of its comfort zone.”