Mountain lion released after ‘wild’ discovery in West Valley City

Feb 2, 2024, 9:56 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2024, 10:43 am

WEST VALLEY CITY — A mountain lion has been released back into the wild, and the man who spotted it in the middle of West Valley City is sharing pictures and video as firefighters and the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources courageously took on the cougar high up in a tree.

Damon Barker explained that he had just stepped outside his parents’ house Thursday evening when something caught his eye. Whatever it was, it seemed way too large to be hanging out up on a tree branch.

“As I was talking on the phone, I was staring up there the whole time, then seeing the tail move … That’s a freaking mountain lion,” Barker said in an interview with KSL TV Friday.

He quickly got off the phone and promptly made a few other calls to the DWR and West Valley City.

Police, firefighters and wildlife officers showed up as Barker and his family watched to make sure the big boy didn’t move. The family took pictures and videos as police and fire departments monitored the friendly feline.

“There was a couple of times that it kind of stood up, and they had to yell at it,” Barker said. “One of the cops that was over here would blast this siren to get it to sit back down.”

Scott Root with DWR said they don’t usually tranquilize animals at night.

“But this mountain lion was up in a tree, and it just didn’t seem like it wanted to leave that tree,” Root said, “and also, we had a secret weapon.”

He was talking about the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter with thermal imaging to track the mountain lion if it jumped or fell out of the tree.

Wildlife officers took their chance and successfully tranquilized what Barker’s family would call the “danger kitty.”

“I was like, ‘Holy crap!'” Barker said, of seeing the daring operation.

“We had a biologist underneath, with a net in case it fell. And it just fell asleep in the tree,” Root said.

Firefighters then used a ladder truck to climb up to the cat, successfully dropping him down.

“Here it comes!” Barker’s family yelled as the mountain lion fell. “It’s down. Yay!” they cheered.

Root said Friday evening, the DWR relocated the 2-year-old male mountain lion to a remote location. He’s said the cougar is healthy and probably came down from the Oquirrh Mountains, either chasing deer or looking for new territory.

Barker is grateful all kids and pets were OK and that the mountain lion has been relocated to where it can climb a tree without causing a huge commotion.

“I’m glad everything turned out good and turned out safe for everybody,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

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Mountain lion released after ‘wild’ discovery in West Valley City