On Wednesday, a roaming cougar wound up in a Lewiston (western Idaho) Safeway grocery store parking lot. It is likely that the cat was following the Snake River corridor and passing through town at night when things were quiet, but got spooked by early morning shoppers and decided to hide out until it was safe to move on. A few shoppers noticed a long tail sticking out of the bushes and soon Idaho Department of Fish & Game officials were on site.
The cougar was successfully tranquilized and captured. Early reports said the Department was looking to place the cat in a suitable zoo or wildlife sanctuary. Unfortunately, an appropriate home was not found right away, and later that evening DFG headquarters instructed officers to shoot the cougar. Angry residents quickly began asking why the cat was killed. In addition to not having any where to place the cat, officials also said they felt the cat was too old to humanely be put in a captive environment (which made many people wonder if they even bothered looking?). Officials also said they would not relocate and release the cougar since the Department believes if a wild animal has any contact with people it will become habituated and return. A local woman was so disgusted by the excuses she commented that if all along the plan was to kill the cat, they should have just shot it up at Safeway.
This was a sad outcome for a situation where the responding Fish & Game officers tried to do the right thing to humanely protect both people and wildlife. But unfortunately the policies and opinions of department administrators ultimately demanded another one of our American lions be needlessly killed.