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Cougar sightings in St. George put residents on edge

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Posted at 9:33 PM, Nov 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-17 23:33:18-05

ST GEORGE, Utah -- A number of cougar sightings near homes has put residents on edge.

Local police say several people have seen a mountain lion entering the neighborhood of 400 W. and 670 North Circle. The sightings have occurred over past several months, more frequently residents have found tracks.

“We’ve had a couple reports of a mountain lion and some cubs that have been reported,” says Sgt. Sam Despain. “We just wanted to make people aware in St. George that they do live close and from time to time we see them in the city.”

Jeff Jennings lives on the edge of town. He said he and his wife have seen an entire cougar family on the red cliffs -- it’s never come inside the fence line, but it’s enough to make him nervous about something getting too close.

“I sure would not want to have people coming up, trying to find it, photograph it, or whatever,” Jennings said.

Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources say it’s not uncommon for mountain lions to come down off the cliffs, particularly as the temperatures get a little cooler. But they say one of the most important things to remember if encountering a mountain lion is not to run away.

“Don’t make eye contact with it,” said Utah DWR community outreach coordinator Lynn Chamberlain. “Back away slowly. If you have something around you like pots or pans or sticks or whatever, bang them, holler, make lots of noise.”

DWR wildlife officers investigate all reports of wild animal sightings to verify the animal’s presence and determine if they pose a threat. If they do, officers will take steps to remove the animal.

Chamberlain said cougars are elusive, so spotting one could be hard if you’re looking, the best thing is just to be aware, and ready.

“Is it a major threat at this point? No,” Chamberlain said. “However there is a possibility, especially those that live on the outskirts of town towards the desert or towards the mountains, they may actually see one, and what an incredible opportunity that would be if they do.”

Mountain lion sightings in urban areas should be reported to DWR or local law enforcement. More information about living with cougars can be found on the DWR website, here: http://wildlife.utah.gov/learn-more/living-with-cougars.html