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KALISPELL - State wildlife officials have killed about a dozen mountain lions that have preyed on livestock in northwestern Montana in recent months.

"We've got a pile of dead cats, without a doubt," said Eric Wenum, the state's regional wildlife conflict specialist. "This has been ongoing. It really started in mid-June. And it's been a steady trickle since."

The largest cat carcass in the freezer at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks headquarters in Kalispell is that of a 145-pound male, but most are inexperienced lions that had trouble finding enough deer to eat.

Two weeks ago, Wenum got a report that a mountain lion had killed two ponies in a corral just south of Glacier Park International Airport near Kalispell. The lion returned to its kill the next night and was shot.

Another lion was caught in a trap when it returned to the Lakeside area, where it had killed a domestic goat.

Wenum said the cats getting into trouble are "young, inexperienced cats and they don't have a territory and they are bouncing around looking at cats and dogs."

The young cats, and older cats that have been kicked out of their territories by more dominant lions, struggle most between August and November when the deer are healthiest and more scattered.

Deer are easier to hunt during the winter, Wenum said, giving the young lions a better chance at survival.

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Wenum said the skulls from the lions in the FWP freezer will be saved and distributed to schools and visitor centers as "educational props."

CLICK HERE to visit the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks site.

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