ALMO — Castle Rocks State Park reported its first mountain lion sighting of 2019 this week.
Assistant Park Manager Tara Cannon posted a video of the male cat on Facebook on Thursday morning. The cat was spotted three times over three nights on camera in an area adjacent to one of the park’s most popular trails, mere feet away from where guests walk. So far, no daytime sightings have been recorded.
The name of the trail cannot be released as park officials do not want to encourage hunters to track the lion.
After rangers initially spotted the lion’s tracks near the trail, they set up a camera to monitor the area. Rangers believe the lion is living nearby. Typically, the predators den up in rocks or caves and often keep to higher ground.
The park has never had an incident between guests and mountain lions. Still, Cannon says, it is important to remember you are not alone in the park.
There are some main precautions visitors can take to stay safe, starting with paying close attention to their surroundings. It is also important to travel in groups and keep children nearby.
“Mountain lions are hunted extensively,” Cannon said, “so they are generally rather shy and intimidated by signs of human presence.”
Park Manager Wallace Keck agrees.
“I was thrilled to see one,” he said. “Cats are often on the run here since lion hunting is legal.”
Three known females are in the area, while males tend to wander in from other areas. Likely three to five males are nearby this season.
The area will not be closed, just monitored by rangers and park officials. When winter ends, Cannon said, the lions will move out.
“We don’t want people to be afraid, just to be aware,” Cannon said.
Mountain lions are just one of the common species of wildlife in the park. Others include mule deer, moose, coyote, sage grouse, the pinyon jay and the Virginia warbler.
The park is open year round and offers hiking, biking, fishing and horse trails, along with world-class rock and ice climbing. Bird watching and wildflower viewing are also popular park activities, and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are common winter draws.
Established in 2003, the public recreation area spans 1,692 acres in Cassia County and is located in the Big Cove at the base of Cache Peak in the Albion Mountains, just 45 miles south of Burley. In 2018, 197,189 visits were recorded at the park.