The holidays mean visitors for some Montanans, but one Whitefish family says they had an unwanted one the day after Christmas. The Rays have the photos to prove it: a hundred-pound mountain lion staring at them through their back door, just a foot and a bit of glass separating them.
“My sister and law looked out the back of our house and said ‘Wow look at that,’” said Linda Ray.
Linda’s husband R.T. called 911, and as the police made their way toward their house, the family started snapping photos.
“It was scary,” said R.T. Ray. “I mean, we walk these streets at night.”
The Rays live just north of downtown Whitefish, in an area popular for walking and jogging.
“My 90-year old mother and sister and brother-in-law and his sister were just leaving out our front door and our little girl, 23, was coming home and we didn’t know where that cat was and when she got home, out of her jeep, I yelled at her to get back in her jeep,” said R.T. Ray.
R.T. says he was thinking about shooting the cat himself, but didn’t know if he was allowed. It turns out, he would have been. Montana law says folks can shoot mountain lions if they feel threatened on their property. It’s not an animal that gets trapped and relocated.
“That cat would have got in trouble, I mean, it would have hurt something,” said R.T. Ray. “Maybe just a dog, maybe a little kid. They don’t need to be in our city.”
Mountain lions typically travel at night, but there it was, looking at them in board daylight. Linda says she hates to see the animal die, but she agreed it was a threat, and not the kind of holiday visitor she was looking for.
A Whitefish Police officer was ultimately able to track the animal down, and killed it with one shot to the neck in a nearby neighborhood. Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial says the animal was a female, and around two or three years old.