Warmer weather could be contributing to mountain lion sightings

Jan 30, 2024, 2:00 PM

Mountain lion sightings prompt safety reminders in Cottonwood Heights...

Mountain lion sightings prompt safety reminders in Cottonwood Heights (Cottonwood Heights City, Facebook)

(Cottonwood Heights City, Facebook)

SALT LAKE COUNTY— According to state wildlife officials, the warmer weather could be playing a part in why some people in Eastern Salt Lake County are reporting mountain lion sightings. 

According to a Facebook post from the city of Cottonwood Heights, people in the area have reported sighting the big cats

Additionally, a Millcreek man also told KSL TV his neighbor caught a cougar on video.

Darren DeBloois, game mammals program coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources told KSL Newsradio that the big cats (cougars, mountain lions, pumas, etc.) are pretty hard to track since they keep a low profile in the mountain areas.

However, there is one thing that tends to lead to more cougar activity: mule deer herds. Since there’s little, if any snow along the benches and valleys of the Wasatch Front, some deer are likely heading down in search of food. 

“If we have a lot of snow high and deer move down into the foothills or into the valleys, lions are likely to follow,” DeBloois said.

DeBloois said some animals will come down to the valleys since it’s easier to get around and find food with less snow. When they come down, they are more likely to encounter humans.

DeBloois also said some younger male mountain lions could be roaming around looking for a new place to call home. Older males will force them away from their group at an early age.

Remaining safe during mountain lion sightings

Mountain lion sightings are very rare in Utah, in the grand scheme of things. DeBloois said they tend to avoid humans once they know they’re around.

If you live in big cat habitats:

  • Trim back or remove vegetation or other things that could attract deer and subsequently, cougars.
  • Keep pets inside at night and around cougar hunting times at dawn and dusk.

The Wild Aware Utah website also encourages homeowners to have motion sensor lights on their property, which could potentially spook wandering cougars.

If you’re out hiking or exploring the backcountry:

  • Make enough noise to make your presence known.
  • Avoid hiking or running alone and avoid wearing earbuds.
  • If you find an animal carcass, leave the area.

The DWR’s website said if you encounter a mountain lion:

  • Pick up kids or small pets.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Do not turn or run away.
  • Wave your arms or jacket above your head and be loud.
  • Back away slowly and leave the area.
  • If you are attacked, fight back and be aggressive.

Officials encourage people to report mountain lion sightings if it has killed something in a residential area, if it appears aggressive, or if the same one has shown up on a security camera multiple times. 

Related: Mountain lion sightings in Cottonwood Heights prompt warning

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Warmer weather could be contributing to mountain lion sightings