HELENA – Helena leaders are advising the public about a reported mountain lion sighting on Mount Helena.
Helena Parks and Recreation reports the animal was spotted Thursday morning on the back side of the summit, near the 1906 and Prairie trails.
Greg Normandin lives near the Mount Helena trailhead. He and his dog Tanner are out on the trail system most days when the weather is good. He said he was surprised to hear a report of a mountain lion in the area.
“When I hear that there’s one up there, you really have to take precautions,” he said.
Leaders with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks say Mount Helena and the rest of the South Hills are typical territory for mountain lions.
“It wouldn’t be surprising to run into a mountain lion in any of those places,” said Greg Lemon, FWP’s communication and education division administrator.
FWP says, if you encounter a mountain lion, the most important thing is to appear as large as possible, so the animal won’t think you’re its prey.
“What we recommend is that people stand up tall, be big,” Lemon said. “If you’ve got little kids with you, pick the kids up. If you have a jacket on, open up your jacket.”
FWP says it’s rare for a mountain lion to attack. Leaders say it’s best to give it a way to escape, so it can avoid a confrontation.
If a lion does attack, Lemon said people should fight back aggressively, which can sometimes stop the animal.
Bear spray can also help deter a mountain lion.
“It affects its eyes, nose and mouth,” Lemon said. “Lions don’t like it any more than bears do.”
Normandin said he usually carries bear spray when riding his bike on the mountain. He said he will pay attention to whether there are other mountain lion sightings around Mount Helena, and that he might try to stay closer to the trailhead if they continue. But he said mountain lions and other animals simply come with the territory.
“I think when you come up here, you have to come prepared,” he said.
FWP’s full recommendations for what do do if you encounter a mountain lion are available on the agency’s website.