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Hikers warned of mountain lion sightings in Helena

A mountain lion perched on a rock
Priscilla Du Preez
A mountain lion perched on a rock

Wildlife officials are warning hikers in Helena to be alert after a recent increase in mountain lion activity in the area. Sightings can be more common this time of year.

Brian Wakeling with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks says more people recreating outdoors means more chances for wildlife encounters. He said mountain lions follow their prey, so they're likely following deer into more urban areas.

“If there's abundant forage close to human habitation, and that may take the form of ornamental landscaping or natural forage, then you see deer within areas where humans exist," Wakeling said. "And you may encounter more predators at that time as well."

But despite a higher likelihood of seeing mountain lions this time of year, Wakeling said that the risk of a lion actually attacking is fairly low.

“Their method of hunting is primarily an ambush predator," he said. "And under most circumstances, humans do not constitute what looks like prey to them.”

He still recommends people be aware of their surroundings, hike in groups and make noise to keep lions away. But if you do encounter a lion, Wakeling say to stand your ground, make yourself look as big as possible — and don’t run.