A wildlife biologist is reasonably certain a mountain lion killed Bobby Fulton's pet goat in Mound House.
Rain and sandy soil obscured the attacker's footprints, but they were the right size for a lion, about 4 inches, according to Jack Spencer, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Carson City.
Mountain lions will eat a large amount of meat, compared to other predators like coyotes, and the goat carcass was completely consumed. The animals also eat everything but intestines, which were left, Spencer said.
"When the ribs are chewed down, like this goat, it's a very good indication that it was a mountain lion," he said. "We think it could have been a large male, based on the amount of meat consumed."
Fulton, who owns another goat named Sugar, said he isn't getting much sleep. He set up his video camera in an attempt to catch the lion on film -- and he's armed and ready. He said he will kill the cat if it comes back.
"Lucy was a pet, like a dog. Next time, it could be a child," he said. "Sugar is locked in a small pen at night, and he doesn't go into his box. He sits on top, and if you watch his movements, his head always turns to the area of the pen where Lucy was killed."
Spencer said another attack is possible, but highly unlikely. No search for the lion will be scheduled unless a habitual problem arises.
"Usually, the lion is just passing through," he said. "They come in, eat, and leave. If the lion comes back, it will most likely happen some time later."
Spencer said reports of lion sightings have remained relatively stable over the past few years, despite encroaching civilization. The nocturnal animals are very elusive, but have come in increasing contact with the urban environment, just like coyotes.
"For mountain lions, killing urban pets is like shooting fish in a barrel," he said. "But urban distractions, like a door slamming or a dog barking, will scare them away. The noise confuses them."
He said complaints about coyotes killing pets are far more prevalent, but mountain lion sightings are not uncommon.
Three complaints were received in north Reno on Monday, primarily involving mule deer killings.
The Department of Agriculture promotes nonlethal methods of handling the problem, Spencer said.
"People accuse us of killing lions because we hate them," he said. "That's not true. We intervene so people don't become involved."
He said dogs and snares are used to capture the lions, which are game animals in Nevada. If an animal becomes a problem, it will be euthanized instead of relocated.
About 3,200 lions roam throughout Nevada, Spencer said.