What you should do if you come across a cougar in the wild
SALT LAKE CITY — Temperatures are warming up and the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources warned that people need to prepare for wildlife encounters as they head outdoors.
The cougar is one of the most feared animals. DWR said cougar attacks are rare in the U.S. but hikers have crossed paths with them and they have frequently appeared on doorbell camera footage.
In 2020 a Utah County man survived a six-minute encounter with a cougar on Slate Canyon Trail in Provo. He recorded the entire ordeal on his cell phone.
“Insane! I can’t even explain how I thought this was happening,” 26-year-old Kyle Burgess said shortly afterward.
The cougar locked eyes with Burgess the whole way. The animal lunged at him several times.
“Typically, a cougar that is trying to prey on something will sneak up and ambush them,” said Darren Debloois with DWR. “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.”
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND PREVENT AN ENCOUNTER
DWR said Burgess did everything he was supposed to during his remarkable encounter.
If you find yourself staring at a cougar, here’s how to avoid an attack.
- 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.
- 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.
“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,” DeBloois said.
Here are some tips to help prevent conflicts with cougars:
- 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.
- Bring pets and livestock inside at night or secure them in a barn or kennel with a top.
REPORTING A COUGAR SIGHTING
DWR said reported sightings have increased recently because cougar numbers have increased. So has the number of people who installed doorbell cameras and people who have moved near cougar and deer habitats.
It’s not necessary to report a cougar sighting unless the animal has killed something in your neighborhood, shown aggressive behavior, or appeared on camera several times.
You can find more information on animal sightings here.
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