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Women come face-to-face with cougar in Draper as sightings increase

Posted at 11:45 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 08:16:37-04

DRAPER, Utah — In the quiet of Coyote Hollow in Draper, the trails can be empty aside from the whoosh of a passing mountain biker.

But hikers aren't alone, whether they know it or not.

Something is lurking in the bushes, watching. Waiting.

READ: Handling the rare but real dangers of wildlife encounters in Utah

"We hear this like, 'rawrrrr' -- it wasn't like a growl, it was like that screech," recounted Sherie Allen. She had just taken off on a hike with Shelli Roberts and Roberts' small Shitsu Yorkie, Buster.

The two women were quarter of a mile up the trail, they said, when a cougar approached.

"It was like six feet, I'm not kidding you," Allen said. She said the cougar was down trail from where they had just come from They had no choice but to back away, up the trail. "It was behind us, and we're like, 'Oh.'"

"It's following us," Roberts added.

"There's a kitty," Allen echoed.

"It's tracking us," Roberts continued.

"She, luckily, grabbed my arm and was like, 'Whatever you do, do not run,' and she stopped me in my tracks," Roberts said of Allen.

They said Roberts picked up Buster, and the big cat tracked them 50 to 100 feet as they backed away slowly.

WATCH: Family, wildlife officials react to Utah man's cougar encounter

Their face-to-face encounter isn't the only one in the area recently.

"Corner Canyon always has mountain lions and cougars, but this year we have seen an increased number of sightings," said Draper Police Lt. Pat Evans.

He said one of the mountain lion sightings was right along the river bottoms of the Jordan River and 12300 South in Draper. They think the drought is causing a spike in cougar sightings.

"We believe that it has to do, a lot to do with the shortage of water," he said. "We believe they're coming down to get to the water supplies."

Lt. Evans offered tips for anyone who comes across an aggressive animal on the trail. First, he said it's important to stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Watch for cougar paw prints, scat or other warning signs.

If you see one on the trail, it's important to stay calm and know exactly what to do, he stressed.

"The best thing you can do is make yourself look big, maintain eye contact, never run away from a cougar," Lt. Evans said. "If you have a pet or you have a child, small child-- keep them close to you or pick them up if possible as you're backing out of the area."

He also suggested making noise on the trail or wearing bells while hiking or biking to warn wildlife you are in the area.

READ: Rare wolverine spotted by Utah woman on Layton trail

If a mountain lion attacks, the best thing is to fight back in hopes they get scared away, Lt. Evans said.

Allen and Roberts knew all of those safety steps, and it came in handy.

"[We] picked up rocks, made eye contact, backed away," Allen said. "We kind of went back-to-back, and everybody got a side," Roberts explained.

They made it down to the trailhead and called 911, which is another thing that Lt. Evans asks anyone who comes across a cougar to do.

Allen and Roberts talked about how they have a responsibility to be informed, and they knew they were in the cougar's space. They wanted to make sure they respected that space, and could share it.

"He was giving us a warning, and we heeded the warning," Allen said. "We listened," Roberts said, and Allen echoed, "And we listened to his warning."

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