The killings started weeks ago. Every few days Carson City rancher Jack Foerschler would make a grisly discovery on his spread, another sheep dead. Foerschler thought he knew how his sheep were being killed. Small puncture wounds suggested a small caliber bullet fired at close range, but the vandal's motive puzzled him. "Why someone should shoot a sheep that can do nothing to defend itself. It's beyond me, "Foerschler said last month.
Carson Sheriff's deputies investigated. They could find no casings. No one heard shots. In fact, there was little evidence beyond the mounting death toll in Foerschler's flock. They asked for a Secret Witness reward and one was posted. Still the killings continued.
Finally, Foerschler set up a surveillance camera hoping to catch the culprit in the act. He did, but what he saw was not what he expected.
It was a young mountain lion leaping into the frightened flock, scattering them, and then leaping over the fence, taking a lamb. Another loss to a herd he's been building for years, but a mystery solved.
Foerschler called the Department of Wildlife which trapped the 130lb male lion and promptly euthanized him.
"This was an attractive source of food for a young lion and he was able to get an easy meal," says Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy. "He was going to keep on doing it until he was stopped. Relocating him would simply be moving the problem elsewhere."
Although Foerschler says he's never before lost a sheep to a lion and his ranch is near Carson City's suburbs, Healy says the presence of a mountain lion should be no surprise.
"This is mountain lion country," says Healy. "As we move into the urban interface we're going to encounter them."
Mountain lions aren't the only predators causing problems for local residents. Healy says there are reports a black bear has recently killed domestic goats at a home in Washoe Valley. If that bear is caught, he says, it will be euthanized as well, for the same reasons.
Should people be concerned for their own safety? Well, Nevada has been lucky. There's never been a mountain lion attack on a human here in modern times. Still, people venturing out in the wild should recognize that wild animals are part of the equation.
To be safe it's best not to hike around dawn or dusk or at night when they are most likely to be hunting. And, if you do, make plenty of noise. Wild animals instinctively know humans mean problems for them. They should stay out of your way.