SALT LAKE CITY — Cougars, mountain lions, pumas: They go by several names, but these predators can be found throughout Utah, including popular hiking areas in foothills and canyons, so the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wants the public to be aware of how to stay safe around them.
Mountain lion numbers have increased in Utah, and they typically follow deer—their main prey—so can also be found in valley floors.
After making a kill, a mountain lion will often hide the carcass by covering it with soil, leaves or snow, saving it to feed on later, so finding a carcass means they may be nearby.
“People are the most likely to encounter cougars in areas frequented by mule deer and during the early morning and at dusk, when cougars are most likely to be hunting,” Utah Division of WIldlife Resources Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said.
Here are some tips to avoid a surprise encounter:
- Do not hike or jog alone.
- Avoid using headphones that could block out awareness of a nearby lion.
- Travel in groups and keep everyone together, including children and dogs.
- Make noise while hiking to alert cougars to stay away.
- Leave the area if a dead animal is nearby, especially deer or elk, since it could be a cougar kill.
- In deer habitat areas, do not leave children outside unattended, especially at dawn and dusk.
- Trim vegetation and remove wood piles to reduce hiding places for wildlife.
- Bring pets and livestock inside at night or secure them in a barn or kennel with a top.
In the rare case of a mountain lion interaction:
- Never run from a cougar, since that could trigger the cougar’s instincts to chase.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Pick up children and pets or keep them very close.
- 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.
- Despite an instinct to run, fight back if attacked!
“Typically, a cougar that is trying to prey on something will sneak up and ambush them,” DeBloois said.
“When a cougar lunges or bluffs a charge at someone, they are typically just trying to drive them out of the area because they have kittens or a kill nearby that they are trying to protect.”
Mountain lion sightings should be reported to the DWR if it has killed something in the area, is aggressive, or has been seen repeatedly on security cameras.