Rise And Shout If A Cougar Comes Out
Cougars, mountain lions and pumas, oh my! They have several different names, but these elusive predators can be found throughout Utah. While cougar attacks are quite rare in the U.S., there is always the chance you may see a cougar on your 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. Cougars can be found throughout Utah, usually in the foothill and canyon areas, but also sometimes down in the valleys — especially during the winter months when they follow food-seeking deer to lower elevations. Trends of population data indicate that 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.
What Can You Do?
So, what can you do to reduce your chance of a conflict with a cougar? Well, other than bringing along a member of the Utah football team, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources suggest these tips. Don't hike or jog alone, stay very aware if you are recreating in cougar country. Don't use headphones that block out your surroundings. Travel in groups and keep everyone together, especially children and pets. Make noise while you are hiking so cougars and other wildlife know you are there. If you see a dead animal, particularly a deer or elk, leave the area. That could be evidence that a cougar is in the are. If you live in an area close to deer habitat, don't leave children outside alone, especially at dawn and dusk. Install outside and motion sensitive lighting around your property. Trim vegetation and woodpiles to reduce hiding places for wildlife. And be sure to bring you pets and livestock inside at night, or make sure they are secure inside a barn or in a kennel that is fully enclosed.
But, what should you do if you do have that rare encounter with a cougar? Well, the first thing the DWR recommends is, don't run. That run could trigger the cougar's natural instinct to chase. Make sure you maintain eye contact. Pick up your kids and/or pets and keep them very close. Don't crouch or squat, stand up as tall as you can. Make yourself look bigger by waving your arms or a jacket over your head. Talk firmly in a loud voice. Back away slowly and leave the area, again without running. If you are attacked, fight back hard and protect your head and neck. If you are aggressive enough, the cougar will probably flee.
When To Report
There has been an increase in the number of cougars in the state recently. That, along with an increase in doorbell security and other outside monitoring has led to an increase in cougar sightings. If you see a dead animal in you neighborhood or yard, you should report that to the DWR. You should also report a cougar sighting if it shows up frequently on you outside camera monitors. If you see a cougar in the distance, or a one time appearance on your cameras, it is likely just passing through the area and doesn't need to be reported.
If you would like more tips on safety visit the Wild Aware Utah website. Oh, and if you see a cougar in football pads, it probably won't be much of a problem.