Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recently finished a study that showed mountain lion populations were higher than predicted in the Bitterroot Valley. The study was conducted in 2013 and researchers used DNA sampling, which was a different method than in previous projects.

"What they showed is that the numbers of lions in the southern Bitterroot where the study was conducted — the east and west forks of the Bitterroot — are two to four times higher than we had initially predicted," said FWP spokeswoman Vivica Crowser. "What researchers are estimating is 85 lions in the west fork of the Bitterroot and 82 in the east fork. These are independent adults. This doesn't include the juvenile population."

Results not only show a population higher than expected, but also a higher mountain lion abundance in the area. Crowser said the abundance of mountain lions in the Bitterroot means that there will likely be a more intense lion hunting season next year.

"Where we were aiming is at a 30 percent reduction of mountain lion numbers in the Bitterroot, but we were working from a different baseline," Crowser said. "With this new information, it's certainly going to play into our management discussions and quota recommendations."

The mountain lion hunting regulations will be decided on in April. Crowser said that the large lion population in the Bitterroot is likely the cause of the multiple urban lion sightings in Missoula over the last year.