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Officials remove cougar from garage in American Fork

Posted at 9:47 PM, Jun 18, 2014

AMERICAN FORK, Utah -- Far from its home in one of Utah’s canyons, a 150-pound cougar made a new home for itself inside a quiet neighborhood in American Fork.

“It was right there in the corner, just facing the wall,” said Spencer Niutupuivaha.

The 17 year old was putting his aunt’s lawn mower in the garage on Tuesday morning when he almost ran right into the animal.

“I look over in the corner, and I see this dark figure," Niutupuivaha said. "I thought it was a big dog, but then I looked at its face and it looked at me and growled. So, I backed up and ran inside. It looked pretty big. It was huge, my wingspan. It was big.”

The family believes the cougar crawled in under the garage door, which hasn't been closing properly.

American Fork Police arrived later that morning and immediately notified the Division of Wildlife Resources.

A DWR Technician tranquilized the cougar in order to remove it from the home, and then later made the decision to euthanize it.

“If we have a cougar that we suspect is exhibiting behavior that could be detrimental or cause a public safety concern, I think that we would be irresponsible to not do something like this,” said Bill Bates, Wildlife Section Chief for the division.

According to Bates, the area where the cougar was found is considered a Zero Tolerance Zone because of how many homes are in the region. That means any cougars found there will be removed, however, they are not typically euthanized.

“If it poses no risk to humans or livestock or pets, and we have a place where we can let it go, we can take that animal and let it go out in the wild,” Bates said. “So, you know, they made the right call in this case, and we’re sorry. We don’t want to put any animal down, but public safety is paramount.”