There have been several mountain lion sightings near school bus stops in western Montana, especially near the Florence Carlton area, a sight that is not uncommon in winter.

James Jonkle with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says mountain lions follow the game into the valleys where food is more plentiful.

“The lions have shifted down into their winter ranges,” said Jonkle. “Just like elk and deer they come down into the lower elevations. So, usually from December through April almost all of your lion activity is down in the foothills in the Bitterroot and the Missoula area, the Blackfoot and the Clark Fork. Folks need to be watching for sign, but there’s nothing to be worried about, because wherever you have deer and elk, you’ll have lions.”

Jonkle explained why parents have been seeing more lions near bus stops in rural areas.

“A lot of the bus stops where kids are picked up and let off are right at the ends of roads where the canyons tighten up and that’s right where lion activity occurs,” he said. “They’re crossing right at the finger ridges where two or three little drainages come together. But, we do ask that folks report any sightings, especially in and around home sites, and the best way to do that is to hop on our website Missoula Bears.org or the Missoula Bears Facebook page, so that’s a good way to get sightings right to Fish. Wildlife and Parks.”

Jonkle said human and mountain lion interactions are rare, but it is wise to not allow pets or livestock near low lying areas near creek bottoms, especially in the early evening hours.

“People just need to understand that there are lions everywhere, all through western Montana,” said Jonkle.