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Hikers share scary encounter with mountain lion protecting babies

Posted at 7:53 PM, Oct 22, 2021

MILLCREEK CANYON, Utah — A pair of hikers is sharing their scary encounter with a mountain lion from Wednesday night.

John Young and Kes Chauca were on the final descent of the Grandeur Peak Trail in Millcreek Canyon.

It was around 8:15 p.m. when John, walking slightly ahead of Kes, spotted a pair of bright, green eyes. He knew instantly it was a mountain lion, and at first, was excited to see the rare sight.

“I go out 2-3 times a week and I’ve never seen a lion anywhere, so this was my first one,” he said. “I was really excited, but I also learned if you see a kitten, the mom is close by.”

This mountain lion was standing its ground, protecting its young cubs, which were nearby.

Kes says during the encounter, she recalled a video that went viral out of Provo exactly a year ago.

WATCH: Caught on Video: Orem man records tense mountain lion encounter in Slate Canyon

A trail runner had his own 6-minute encounter with a mountain lion. She says while they were trying to follow advice from the DWR, by getting big and loud, backing away only seemed to make the animal come closer.

They didn’t want to show any fear, so they decided after trying to bang around branches and throw rocks, they would inch closer, as to not retreat in fear.

It worked. The lion took a few steps back, and the duo skirted by slowly down the trail

John and Kes credit their teamwork and their tools for helping them get by safely.

“Kes was super brave, we worked together, and thank god we weren’t alone,” John said.

Wild Aware Utah gives the following tips for staying safe in mountain lion country:

  • The main prey of cougars is deer, so they will be found wherever deer are. They will also eat elk, antelope, small mammals and birds.
  • Remove wildlife attractants from your property, including pet food, water sources, bird feeders and fallen fruit. If your property and landscaping are attractive to deer and other wildlife, cougars may follow the wildlife into your property while searching for prey.
  • Do not leave children outside unattended, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • As a deterrent, install outside and motion sensitive lighting around your property.
  • Trim vegetation and remove woodpiles to reduce hiding places for wildlife.
  • Bring pets and livestock inside at night or secure them in a barn or kennel with a top.
  • Provide secure shelter for hobby farm animals such as poultry, rabbits and goats.

PREVENTING CONFLICTS WHILE RECREATING

  • Do not hike or jog alone.
  • Travel in groups and keep everyone together including children and dogs.
  • Make noise while hiking to alert cougars of your presence.
  • Leave the area if you find a dead animal, especially deer or elk, it could be a cougar kill. The cougar may return and defend its food.
  • Keep a clean camp. Store food and garbage in an odor-free, locked container or hung between two trees where cougars (and bears) cannot get it.

IF YOU ENCOUNTER A COUGAR

  • Stop. Never run from a cougar. Do not approach the cougar.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Pick up children and pets or keep them very close.
  • Stand up tall.
  • Do not crouch or squat.
  • Make yourself look bigger by raising and waving your arms or jacket above your head.
  • Talk firmly in a loud voice, back away slowly and leave the area.
  • Fight back if you are attacked! Protect your head and neck.
  • If you are aggressive enough the cougar will probably flee.

If you have an encounter with aggressive wildlife, please alert the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources office near you. If the encounter or sighting occurs after hours or on the weekend, please call your local police department or county sheriff’s office, who can contact a conservation officer to handle the situation.