Cottonwood Heights warns residents about mountain lion sightings amid multiple in Salt Lake County foothills

Jan 29, 2024, 10:52 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2024, 7:00 am

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Cottonwood Heights warned its residents Monday about recent mountain lion sightings that also prompted an elementary school to keep its students indoors for recess on multiple days last week.

According to Canyons School District officials, Oakdale Elementary School finally reinstituted outdoor recess on Thursday following the precautionary steps earlier in the week that were made out of consideration for community concerns.

“Please be assured that students will be supervised while outside for recess and physical education,” a message to parents read. “Parents who still don’t want their children to walk to and from school are encouraged to arrange for carpools with friends, family, and neighbors.”

Sighting caught on video

Residents told KSL TV a video circulating on Facebook purportedly captured one of the cougar sightings as the animal passed in front of a home surveillance camera.

“In the past where people didn’t know that they’d been there, now they’re getting footage of them,” said Darren DeBloois, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources game mammals coordinator.

DeBloois said cougars are likely to follow deer, which makes them particularly common in Salt Lake County as they head down from the mountains seeking food.

He said wildlife officers get particularly concerned about sightings when cougars make repeated trips to particular neighborhoods.

“Obviously if (a cougar) kills a pet or acts aggressively toward people, we’ll try to remove that animal lethally,” DeBloois said.

He said in less urgent cases, officers will attempt to capture and relocate the animals.

Other sightings

Recent sightings have not only been a thing in Cottonwood Heights but also in other cities that border the hillside in Salt Lake County.

In Millcreek, Bruce Mahoney said a neighbor captured video of a large mountain lion near his property line on Christmas Day.

“He texted me and said, ‘Look what showed up Christmas morning,’” Mahoney said. “It’s a very big, healthy cougar.”

Mahoney said neighbors had previously found killed deer on their properties and in August, his son-in-law Jefferson Jensen tailed a cougar in his car late at night.

“(I) just kind of followed it until it hopped in some bushes and disappeared,” Jensen told KSL TV.

Mahoney said the sightings seem to have become more common in recent years and those sightings have changed the behavior of his family.

“We don’t let the little dogs out or put them on a chain outside or anything like that,” Mahoney said. “You don’t want to leave them out and you don’t want to leave the kids out either.”

DeBloois said people can reduce their odds of encountering a cougar if they make their places less attractive to door by fencing off ornamentals and not leaving out pet food.

He urged people to report sightings whenever they happen.

“Everybody needs to realize it’s very, very rare that people have a dangerous conflict with a mountain lion,” DeBloois said. “It certainly happens but the odds are low, so people don’t need to be overly worried about it but, again, if you do see an animal hanging around please contact us.”

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Cottonwood Heights warns residents about mountain lion sightings amid multiple in Salt Lake County foothills