A file photo of Hyrum City Animal Control officer Frank Christiansen poses next to a cougar that was tranquilized in a Hyrum resident’s back yard on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — In April 2019 a 100-pound cougar was found in a Hyrum fenced back yard resting under a deck. The healthy lioness was drugged and transported to a secluded area and released.

A male adult cougar can kill over 50 mule dear in a year.

A warning of possible cougar activity in Utah was sent out Monday, May 9. David Smedley, a Division of Wildlife Resources wildlife biologist, said when the snow is gone cougars are a more mobile and wander about more.

“Cougars have little ones at all times of the year,” he said. “I have not heard of any sightings of them in Cache or Box Elder counties yet this year, but it is always a good reminder when people are out and about.”

The predators can be found throughout Utah, usually in the foothill and canyon areas, but they can be found in the valleys, too. Population data indicate cougar numbers in Utah have been growing steadily for the last few years.

The main prey of cougars is deer, so they can be found wherever deer are. They will also eat elk, pronghorn, small mammals and sometimes birds. After making a kill, a cougar will often hide or cache the carcass by covering it with soil, leaves or snow, saving it to feed on later.

Drought conditions typically don’t have a substantial short-term impact on cougars. With declines in deer numbers from drought conditions, there could be a longer-term decline in cougar numbers; however, in areas with alternative prey sources, cougars may still have enough to eat and there may not be any decline in cougar numbers. If severe drought conditions cause prey to leave an area, the cougars will likely follow and leave the area, as well. It is possible that deer seeking water sources in towns and cities may draw cougars to those areas this summer also.

While cougar attacks are quite rare in the U.S., DWR warns there is always the chance a person may see a cougar on doorbell camera footage or while you are out hiking this summer. If you do happen to encounter a cougar, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep yourself safe.

People are the most likely to encounter cougars in areas frequented by mule deer and during the early morning and at dusk, when cougars are most likely to be hunting,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said. “Typically, a cougar that is trying to prey on something will sneak up and ambush them.”

He said when a cougar lunges or bluffs a charge at someone, they are typically just trying to drive them out of the area because they have kittens or a kill nearby that they are trying to protect.

Here are some tips to help prevent conflicts with cougars:

  • Do not hike or jog alone.
  • Maintain awareness in cougar country while hiking or jogging and avoid using headphones that block out your surroundings.
  • Travel in groups and keep everyone together, including children and dogs.
  • Make noise while hiking to alert cougars of your presence.
  • Leave the area if you find a dead animal, especially deer or elk, since it could be a cougar kill.
  • If you live in an area near deer habitat, do not leave children outside unattended, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • As a deterrent, install outside and motion-sensitive lighting around your property.
  • Trim vegetation and remove wood piles to reduce hiding places for wildlife.
  • Bring pets and livestock inside at night or secure them in a barn or kennel with a top.

In the rare event that you do happen to encounter a cougar, here are some tips to help keep you safe:

  • Never run from a cougar, since that could trigger the cougar’s instincts to chase.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Pick up children and pets or keep them very close.
  • Stand up tall.
  • Do not crouch or squat.
  • Make yourself look bigger by raising and waving your arms or jacket above your head.
  • Talk firmly in a loud voice, back away slowly and leave the area.
  • Fight back if you are attacked! Protect your head and neck.
  • If you are aggressive enough, the cougar will probably flee.
Several indicators give DWR biologists valuable information about Utah’s cougar population and how the population is doing.

There has been an increase in cougar sightings over the last few years in Utah, due to an increase in cougar numbers, an increase in doorbell and security cameras, and an increase in the number of people moving into cougar and deer habitat areas.

Sightings of a cougar should be reported if it has killed something in a neighborhood or yard, it exhibits aggressive behavior or if it appears several times on your security cameras.

If someone captures footage of a cougar on security cameras one time or see one from a distance in foothill areas, do not report it. One-time sightings of cougars are typically when the animal is moving through an area, and it is often not around by the time DWR biologists and conservation officers can respond.







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