WILDLIFE

Rush Valley mountain lion most recent in summer of sightings

Aug 23, 2022, 2:30 PM | Updated: 4:53 pm

RUSH VALLEY, Utah — “My biggest fear came true today. I am so lucky I got away from this kitty,” said Laurien Elsholz on Facebook of a recent mountain lion encounter. 

Elsholz was bow hunting in Tooele County’s Rush Valley when she said she smelled something dead and heard crashing noises. 

“I felt something swipe my leg … it took me a second to realize I was face-to-face with a mountain lion,” Laurien Elsholz told KSL-TV

She said she slowly backed away from the cougar after hitting it with her hiking stick when it got too close. In her Facebook post, Elsholz said that she was able to find her way out of the trees and that the mountain lion left them after following them for a bit. 

“I am so lucky to have walked away alive,” said Elsholz.

Faith Jolley, public information officer for the Department of Wildlife Resources saw the video and said it’s hard to see, but thinks Elsholz did the right thing after she saw the cougar.

“It does look like she was talking loudly, remaining calm and trying to back away slowly, which are all things we recommend,” said Jolley. 

Elsholz’s experience mirrors that of other Utahns and a trend in the state — an uptick in cougar sightings. 


Our coverage:


An increase in mountain lion sightings 

Humans rarely see these elusive big cats, but the increase in doorbell video cameos and face-to-face interactions could be attributed to drought conditions according to the DWR.

When severe drought conditions cause their prey, namely deer, elk, and small mammals to come down from the mountains in search of water, mountain lions might follow. 

Despite the uptick in sightings, the DWR says that attacks on humans are rare

What to do if you encounter a “big cat”

If you find yourself near a mountain lion, the DWR offers this guidance:   

  • don’t run away, that could trigger the animal’s instincts to chase;
  • 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;
  • speak firmly in a loud voice, back away slowly, and leave the area;
  • fight back if you are attacked, protecting your head and neck;
  • if you are aggressive enough, the cougar will probably flee.

To prevent interactions with mountain lions: 

  • do not hike or jog alone;
  • maintain awareness in cougar country while hiking or jogging, and avoid using headphones that block out your surroundings;
  • 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 since it could be a cougar kill;
  • if you live in an area near deer habitat, 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 wood piles to reduce hiding places for wildlife; and
  • bring pets and livestock inside at night, or secure them in a barn or kennel with a top.

Finally, you only need to contact DWR if a mountain lion shows up at your home multiple times, is showing aggressive behavior or has killed something in your yard or neighborhood. 

We want to hear from you.

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