LEWISTON, Idaho -- Idaho Fish and Game officials euthanized the cougar captured in the Lewiston Safeway parking lot Wednesday.
Conservation officer Mark Hill said efforts to find a suitable home for the cougar did not produce immediate results, and wildlife officials at the department's Boise headquarters instructed them to shoot the 80- to 100-pound animal the same evening it was captured.
For public safety reasons, the department has a policy not to return large carnivores, like cougars, bears and wolves, to the wild after they have been habituated or partially habituated to people.
The decision to kill the large cat and not hold it while a zoo or wildlife facility could be found angered some people.
"I'm very upset. They made no effort to save that cat," said Karyl Wait of Genesee. "Why didn't they just kill it up at Safeway?"
Wait said she made some calls herself and located a facility near Spokane that might have been interested in taking the cougar. "They didn't even bother to contact them," she said.
Jon Rachael, the Fish and Game large carnivore manager at Boise, said placing wild adult cougars is difficult and includes concerns for both human safety the welfare of the animal. He said the department has had luck finding zoos that will take cougar kittens that have been orphaned and can be tamed. But finding a home for an adult cougar raised in the wild is much harder. He also said it's not necessarily the best thing for a wild animal to be caged, and the department deals only with zoos and wildlife sanctuaries accredited through the American Zoo and Aquarium Association
"When they are close to a year old or older and they have been raised in the wild and they behave very wild, then it becomes a question of putting this animal in an enclosure that might not be the best thing for the animal," he said. "It becomes a fairness issue and a judgment call."
The cougar was discovered about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday hiding in landscaping on the perimeter of the parking lot. Wildlife biologists shot the cougar with a tranquilizer dart as a crowd of people watched. At the time, Jay Crenshaw, wildlife manager for the Clearwater Region, said cougars captured in town are euthanized unless a zoo is willing to take them.
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(c) 2011, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
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