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Mountain Lion

A mountain lion was shot by local law enforcement on a January morning at the Bismarck Municipal Ballpark.

A mountain lion shot and killed by Bismarck police officers Tuesday morning had previously been caught in a coyote trap in southwest North Dakota.

Police got a call at about 5 a.m. Tuesday from a person who reported seeing a mountain lion jump a fence north of a yard near the Bismarck Municipal Ballpark.

There were tracks found in a backyard in the area leading to the ballpark. Officers and officials with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department responded to the area and followed the tracks in Zonta Park, through Bismarck Municipal Ballpark and into Kiwanis Park.

The animal was shot "due to the danger to the public and the proximity to homes," police said in the news release.

Jeb Williams, wildlife division chief for the state Game and Fish Department, said the mountain lion was a 1- to 2-year-old male that was likely seeking new territory to avoid other dominant, adult male mountain lions. Typically, mountain lions are found in western North Dakota.

"It’s very natural for them to disperse out. And when they disperse out, they use these different travel corridors, most of the time, drainages like creeks, rivers, different types of things that offer them some seclusion," Williams said.

The mountain lion shot and killed on Tuesday has some history with the Game and Fish Department, according to Williams.

In late October, a coyote trapper south of Regent found a male mountain lion in one of his traps. Game and Fish responded and sedated the animal, put a GPS collar and ear tag on it and released it, he said. About a month later, they found the collar but no mountain lion.

"(The mountain lion) was working his way kind of northeast of the location of where he was trapped, and we kind of kidded a little bit, 'It looks like he’s headed for Bismarck,'" Williams said. "Well, lo and behold, this is that lion."

The mountain lion was shot rather than tranquilized on Tuesday to protect the public, according to Williams.

"In a city situation, when an animal is very amped up the way it is, we’re essentially not willing to take the risk of darting that lion and then of course that lion taking off somewhere," he said. "And it takes a period of time for that sedation to kick in."

Williams also said Game and Fish's stance is to not relocate predators.

Last month, a mountain lion sighting was reported to police in north Bismarck near Horizon Middle School, though Williams said it's not clear whether the one shot Tuesday was the same one.

The last time a mountain lion was shot by police within Bismarck city limits was about 10 years ago behind the former Home Depot building, now the Sanford POWER Center, according to Williams.

The body of the mountain lion killed on Tuesday was taken to a lab where a necropsy — like an autopsy — will be performed to determine the animal's overall health, which Williams said appeared to be good.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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Education and Health Reporter