Learn best practices when confronting cougars

Cougars, mountain lions, puma – they are all the same; Large predatory wild cats. They follow the mule deer population, and they usually hunt and feed at dawn and dusk.

According to Wildlife Resources Animal Coordinator Darren Deblois, trends are that the cougar population is steadily growing. And not to worry, but a cougar often sees or hears you before you know he’s nearby.

They’re shy. They’re mysterious. They’re good at hiding and staying out of people’s eyes, and that’s how they make a living by sneaking up on prey and ambushing them; you don’t even realize they’re there. So, they’re really good at it. People aren’t on their list. We see cougar clashing with people, it’s the wrong place, the wrong time for something, and people just bump into them.”

If you’re hiking and smell something dead like a rotting corpse or you see a dead animal with things piled on top, don’t walk around and check, DeBloois said.

“Cougar kills are distinctive in that if it is something they cannot eat at once, they will hoard it, so they will take that animal, and what is left of it, and cover it. If you see a domestic cat, how do you bury things. Cougars do the same.”

DeBloois said it’s best to avoid human-cougar conflicts by hiking or jogging with a large dog or groups of people. It is recommended to make noise and avoid headphones, especially if you are alone on the road. He added that motion detection lighting could work in homes close to cougar habitats.

Utah Department of Wildlife Resources

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DeBloois said that if a doorbell’s camera caught a cougar’s visit at night, it might be a one-off. But if a cougar is around or a pet goes missing, DWR wants to hear about it.

“We have a fairly large number of cougars, especially when we are talking about Salt Lake County and Park City. Very little cougar hunting continues, and I don’t think we have seen cougar harvesting in those units for several years. Doorbell camera technologies have reached the point that many people have. Thus, it may seem that there are a lot of lions around when you are probably only taking pictures of lions that have always been there.”

A rare encounter between a cougar in Provo Canyon with a trail runner occurred two years ago. A video of the episode went viral, and DeBloois said the runner did all the right things to protect himself.

Important safety tips include never running a cougar and always keeping eye contact with him while standing tall, making him appear bigger by raising and waving your arms or a jacket over your head. Never bend down, squat, or turn your back to a lion because it will consider you prey as prey.

If you are attacked, DeBloois said to fight back, protect your head and neck.

Utah DWR wants you to report a cougar if he’s killed something in a neighborhood or yard, if he’s exhibited aggressive behavior, or if he’s appeared multiple times on a home security camera.

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