As evidenced by a series of wonderful photos, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources lived up to its motto this week, proving that "wildlife is valuable to everyone" by relocating a mountain lion that wandered close to homes in Heber City. The female lion was spotted by neighbors in a backyard tree. Eventually, the lion "bailed out of the tree" and UDWR tracked, tranquilized and relocated the animal.
It's not surprising that a mountain lion would find its way down from Wasatch Mountain State Park and into the communities at the eastern base of the Wasatch Range. Like so many places in the American West, backyards and wildlands are just a stone's throw - or a lion's leap - apart.
Utah officials have not always treated wayward cougars with such kindness. In early summer 2014 officials from the Utah Department of Wildlife killed a captured lion, claiming that they were required to follow department policies that set the Wasatch Front as a "no tolerance zone". 85% of Utah's population lives within 15 miles of the Wasatch Range, mainly in the valleys just to the west.
"We like to give the mountain lion a chance," said Scott Root, conservation outreach manager for UDWR. "Any time you move a mountain lion it's gonna be in another mountain lion's territory. But that doesn't mean for certain that it will be attacked and killed by another lion."
Root says that you needn't call the division if you simply see a mountain lion out in the wild. "If you see a mountain lion on the trail consider yourself lucky, you saw something people rarely see. But if it starts stalking you or acting aggressively, that's when you start going through the steps: you don't run away, you stand your ground, make yourself look big. Make sure that cougar knows you are not a deer, you are a person. That typically will get the cougar to dart off."
Mountain Lion Foundation mailed a letter to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, commending them on their humane action in Heber City. Will you do the same?
What YOU Can Do
To encourage Utah DWR to continue to handle mountain lion encounters with non-lethal force, please consider sending a thank you note to the department:
Greg Sheehan, Director
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
1594 W North Temple, Suite 2110, Box 146301
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6301
Photos Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources